Opposition to the B.C. government’s recently announced Community Benefits Agreement continues to grow. The Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA) has joined a coalition of business associations and non-affiliated unions in signing an open letter to Premier John Horgan demanding his government abandon the agreement.
VRCA took this action out of concern that workers, construction contractors and taxpayers will lose with the ill-conceived and ill-advised procurement model announced July 16, on the basis that it will:
- result in local companies facing potential barriers to participate in key public-sector infrastructure projects in B.C.;
- result in out-of-province companies building B.C.’s infrastructure and returning the economic benefit to their respective jurisdictions; and
- exacerbate an already tight labour market that needs all the skilled workers it can find.
“The overall cost of construction of our public-sector infrastructure will increase. It will not represent best value for taxpayers’ dollars yet will be funded by hard-working British Columbians,” said VRCA president Fiona Famulak.
“Government must understand that its Community Benefits Agreement will have enormous consequences for our industry – and for taxpayers – that neither VRCA nor its members can accept.”
Premier Horgan promises the Community Benefits Agreement will deliver good-paying jobs, better training and apprenticeships, and more trades opportunities for Indigenous peoples, women and youth around the province.
However, the announcement did not reference that the Agreement comes with a union-labour component that is prescriptive and regressive. Further, the details of the labour agreements, including the definition of “key infrastructure projects” and whether it will extend to schools and hospitals, have yet to be released.
VRCA advocates for fair, open, and transparent procurement processes, and strongly opposes any procurement practice or program that seeks to confer exclusive bidding rights to firms based upon any system of quotas or legislated wages within the province.
The decision to sign the open letter follows VRCA’sexpressing alarm and concern about the government’s decision to implement a Community Benefits Agreement on public-sector infrastructure projects that include the Pattullo Bridge.