The Pattullo Bridge between New Westminster and Surrey is due for replacement. (Black Press files)

Non-union builders protest exclusion from B.C. public projects

Premier John Horgan announces new Crown corporation for public works

Premier John Horgan has announced a new Crown corporation for public construction, in an agreement with the B.C. Building Trades unions.

Horgan announced the Pattullo Bridge project will be the first of the province’s new “community benefits agreements,” in reference to local hiring and apprenticeship quotas for government infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and hospitals. The Pattullo project agreement includes priority hiring for women and aboriginal people, Horgan told a news conference at the B.C. Institute of Technology Monday.

Four-laning of the Trans Canada Highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border will also be subject to the new agreement with the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council.

Non-union construction companies warn that restricted bidding for those projects will push up costs, pointing to previous NDP-union projects such as the Island Highway construction in the 1990s.

Horgan first announced his intention to move to union-only projects in March, with the decision to accelerate replacement of the Pattullo Bridge between New Westminster and Surrey. He called the bridge replacement “the perfect template” for a province-wide policy for public construction.

RELATED: Horgan vows union public construction

The location of Monday’s announcement is significant. Horgan and Transportation Minister Claire Trevena chose the Ironworkers training facility at BCIT, a nod to the union that is key to bridge construction.

The B.C. local of the Ironworkers International gave a high-profile endorsement to former premier Christy Clark in the 2017 election, after breaking with its traditional ally the NDP over Horgan’s rejection of a bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel connecting Richmond and Delta.

RELATED: Ironworkers endorse Clark, rap B.C. Fed

Since forming a minority government, Horgan has also ordered B.C. Hydro to return to union-only construction for its infrastructure. The Site C dam project on the Peace River became the utility’s first open-shop project under the B.C. Liberals, opening up contracts to local aboriginal companies and others not aligned with the B.C. Building Trades Council.

Chris Gardner, president of the non-union Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, says the “rebranding” of union project labour agreements won’t make them work better.

“They require union memberships for non-union workers, antiquated union-hall hiring, and they deliver windfalls to the favoured unions involved,” Gardner said.

He notes that since 1981, the traditional trade union share of B.C. construction work has fallen from 90 per cent to 15 per cent.

Critics of the union-only approach point to the Island Highway project, a series of upgrades to the Trans-Canada Highway between Victoria and Campbell River in the 1990s. The project was completed after a series of cost overruns and reduction in scope, including replacement of interchanges with traffic lights.

One of those, at McKenzie Avenue north of Victoria, is finally getting an interchange installed now.

RELATED: Province to speed up traffic at McKenzie Interchange

Just Posted

UFV introduces first mindfulness graduate program in Canada

Most of the University of the Fraser Valley program is offered online

Missing man from Chilliwack was riding a silver mountain bike

RCMP investigators are asking the public to keep an eye out for the 70-year-old man

Enjoy the enchanting and powerful sounds of the cello at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre

Join cellist Beth Root Sandvoss as she performs Cellicious, a concert full of energy and intensity

Mounties hunt for missing Langley man

The public has been asked to help locate David Grainger, last seen on March 19

Lagoon improvements, but no safety audit recommendations, coming to Harrison

The lagoon will see electrical upgrades, a new flag pole and fencing, but no life jackets or signs

After mosque attacks, New Zealand bans ‘military-style’ guns

The gunman killed 50 in a Christchurch mosque

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from B.C. roaster recalled due to botulism scare

“If you purchased N7 Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from Cherry Hill … do not drink it.”

B.C. man gets award for thwarting theft, sexual assault – all in 10 minutes

Karl Dey helped the VPD take down a violent sex offender

Punching Parkinson’s in the Fraser Valley

Rock Steady Boxing program, designed to help battle symptoms of Parkinson’s, coming to Abbotsford in April

Baby left alone in vehicle in B.C. Walmart parking lot

Williams Lake RCMP issue warning after attending complaint at Walmart Wednesday

Nowhere to grieve: How homeless people deal with loss during the opioid crisis

Abbotsford homeless advocate says grief has distinct challenges for those living on the streets

ICBC shifts to Alberta model, with higher rates, private insurers say

B.C. public insurance includes funding enforcement, driver licensing

Most Read