Premier John Horgan announces a $1.8 million pilot project to get more women into skilled trades at the B.C. legislature, March 8, 2018. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

Premier John Horgan vows union public construction (with video)

Pattullo bridge replacement marks return to ‘project labour agreements’

Premier John Horgan says union-only deals for major construction projects are the way of the future, and the replacement of the 80-year-old Pattullo bridge linking Surrey and New Westminster is the “perfect template” for B.C.

Horgan made the comments Thursday at a B.C. legislature ceremony to announce a pilot project to get more women into skilled construction trades.

“I believe that the Pattullo bridge, $1.37 billion, can and will be done with a project labour agreement, a community benefits arrangement, and we’re working on that right now with our partners and making sure that we get an agreement in place that meets the test for British Columbians,” Horgan said.

A typical project labour agreement establishes a work site as union-only, in exchange for a commitment not to go on strike. Horgan said that’s the model for future major public construction, including commitments by unions to meet a quota of apprentices on each job.

“There are going to be different situations as we go along,” Horgan said. “Hospitals are not bridges. Transit lines are not bridges. So we’re going to adapt agreements as we’re negotiating with contractors, as we’re putting out requests for proposals.”

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

The B.C. Liberal government steered the province to open-shop construction, most recently for the early stages of the Site C dam project. Horgan said he has instructed B.C. Hydro to go back to project labour agreements in the future.

“That worked for W.A.C. Bennett, it worked for Bill Bennett and I believe it will work for me,” Horgan said. “I look back now on the projects that were built without community benefits agreements by the previous government, and I’m reminded that the Port Mann bridge was over budget. The Northwest transmission line was wildly over budget. The Vancouver convention centre, the roof at B.C. Place, all over budget.”

The Island Highway expansion in the NDP-led 1990s was a union-only job that was criticized for cost escalation and scaling down to drop interchanges in favour of traffic lights. The Mackenzie interchange north of Victoria is under construction today, after many years of daily traffic slowdowns known as the “Colwood crawl.”

Chris Gardner, president of the non-union Independent Contractors and Business Association, cites a 1994 Vancouver Board of Trade report that estimated the project labour agreement increased Island Highway costs by 38 per cent.

“Horgan’s vision is to use sweetheart deals to tilt the playing field in favour of 20 per cent of the construction workforce,” Gardner said in a recent commentary.

Just Posted

Puff, puff, pass: Cannabis is officially legal across Canada

B.C. has only one bricks-and-mortar marijuana store

Cindy Young makes second run for top political job at the District of Hope

Young, in her run for mayor, is campaigning to attract business to Hope and keep local youth in the community

10 things still illegal in the new age of recreational cannabis

Pot is legal – but there are still a lot of rules, and breaking some could leave you in jail

New bus route to ‘replace’ Greyhound along Trans-Canada Highway

Rider Express Transportation says they will soon begin a bus service from Winnipeg to Vancouver

Six Sto:lo chiefs sign MOU agreement affirming Indigenous rights

Moving to next phase of nation-to-nation negotiation in preparation for final treaty

VIDEO: How to roll a joint

The cannabis connoisseur shares his secrets to rolling the perfect joint

Fraser Valley Throwdown returns this weekend

Abbotsford event back for third annual crossfit competition

B.C. Lions look to cement CFL playoff spot with victory over Eskimos

B.C. can cement a post-season berth in the wild West Division on Friday night with a home win over the Edmonton Eskimos

Canada ban on asbestos takes effect but mining residues are exempt

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna plans to announce the new regulations implementing the ban on Thursday in Ottawa

Harry and Meghan bring rain to drought-stricken Outback town

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day two of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

Demand for legalized cannabis in early hours draws lineups, heavy web traffic

Government-run and privately operated sales portals went live at 12:01 a.m. local time across Canada, eliciting a wave of demand.

5 to start your day

Pot is legal across Canada but no pot shops in many Lower Mainland cities

Killer-rapist Paul Bernardo set to make parole pitch today

Paul Bernardo, whose very name became synonymous with sadistic sexual perversion, is expected to plead for release on Wednesday.

Hero campaign raises $1.1 million for Canada non-profits

Lowe’s Canada Heroes campaign was held throughout September

Most Read