For those of us living in rural B.C., economic development is a key issue. As your MLA, it’s something I’m always thinking about. It’s my responsibility to work with communities, stakeholders and other levels of government to help residents build a better life for themselves and their families.
For most people, that begins with a job. I know some of our local tradespeople were looking forward to working on big projects like the Pattullo Bridge replacement in Surrey. This project will provide hundreds of British Columbians with a good-paying, family-supporting job. Unfortunately for those of us in Fraser-Nicola and beyond, we are being excluded.
Under the government’s new Community Benefits Agreement for the project, all workers will have to live within a 100-kilometre radius of the bridge. They will also have to be a member of a union. Under this agreement, there is no consideration for who might be the best for the job— simply who lives close to the project.
To compound this issue, the new agreement will cost taxpayers an additional $100 million. As infrastructure project costs increase, there will be less money available for the services that British Columbians rely on.
There is more bad news for B.C. In addition to shutting out most of our skilled workers from this project, historically these agreements have led to project delays and cost overruns. Not long ago the Inland Island Highway was built under a similar agreement. It ran 38 per cent over budget and greatly under delivered on promised features.
Sadly, in the end it is all of us who pay for these additional costs and delays. British Columbians deserve a fair, open, competitive, and more inclusive process for awarding major infrastructure projects.