Letter to the Editor: Cost of CBAs too steep

Journal of Commerce | Paul de Jong | July 21, 2020

To the Editor;

RE: BC Building Trades executive director casts doubt on coalition legal appeal, July 17, 2020

No matter how many times the executive director of the Building Trades says it, that doesn’t make it true. Andrew Mercier would be hard pressed to prove that projects built under the John Horgan government’s so-called Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) are providing good public value or benefit, yet he keeps claiming, “Community Benefits Agreements ensure that projects can be delivered in a cost-effective manner that creates opportunities for local hire and apprenticeships.”

A coalition of B.C.’s largest construction associations and progressive unions has tallied the known public costs of the Horgan government’s CBA debacle so far, and it’s steep.

B.C. taxpayers are stuck paying $384 million over original budget estimates for projects like the Pattullo Bridge replacement and Trans-Canada Highway widening. How is that “cost effective?”

There’s also no need for a costly CBA to accomplish what construction companies are doing already: hiring locally. They hire as many local workers as possible because it’s more efficient and reduces travel costs. And member companies with the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA) along with their labour partner CLAC, regularly reach 30 per cent to 40 per cent apprentice ratios on their jobsites.

To claim that Horgan’s version of a CBA has created any real community benefit just doesn’t add up. Look at it this way – $384 million is enough to build five new schools, a new hospital, or 3,000 affordable housing units. Instead those hard-earned public tax dollars are being wasted.

There is no “community benefit” when taxpayers aren’t getting their money’s worth on major public projects, or when the vast majority of B.C. construction workers are shut out of those projects. Fairness and value can only happen when Horgan’s cynical CBA regime is finally scrapped.

Paul de Jong

President of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada