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Posted: August 3, 2019

CBA another layer of strain clouding infrastructure projects

By Doug Clovechok

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA

During the month of July, the Federal Government made a major funding announcement for highway improvements in British Columbia. Here in the Columbia River-Revelstoke, we are fortunate to be one of the recipients of this funding in the form of upgrades to the Trans-Canada Highway at Illecillewaet and the Kicking Horse Canyon.

Typically, these infrastructure upgrades are done in partnership between both levels of government; the BCNDP’s absence at some of the recent announcements is disheartening. It was made clear for all to see that the relationship between John Horgan and Ottawa has deteriorated to an unprecedented level. Projects such as these have to be coordinated with the Provincial Government, but after the way John Horgan and the BCNDP have provoked the federal government, especially over the pipeline expansion, it seems Ottawa just can’t trust Horgan to work in a collaborative manner.

On top of those tensions, John Horgan’s new scheme, the so-called Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), is yet another layer of strain that is clouding infrastructure projects for trades people, companies, and some of our unions.

Despite their name, Community Benefits Agreements serve only to benefit a small group of Horgan’s hand-picked unions while putting pressure on private sector construction companies and contractors. It is little more than a payback with taxpayer dollars to a few of the building trades unions who have donated millions to the BCNDP since 2005. Rather than getting the best deal for taxpayers, John Horgan is spending your money to pay back his friends. “You have by the Building Trades unions, and therefore are facing some really stark choices as tendering 85 per cent of the construction workforce in this province who are not affiliated with or represented goes forward” – Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) President, Chris Gardner.

An analysis by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) shows that B.C. provincial infrastructure projects are estimated to cost $25.6 billion over the next three years. Add CBAs to the budget and we could see an extra $4.8 billion more to the cost of those public projects. Taxpayers would be on the hook for nearly $4,000 for a family of four in B.C., just to cover those extra costs.

The Highway One expansion at Illecillewaet (east of Revelstoke) is a two km highway project that has committed federal funding. It is also the first project to use a CBA; which has seen costs increase by $22.3 million, a staggering 47% overrun. Imagine how many affordable homes the BCNDP Government could create with $22.3 million, or how many public/medical transportation options we could see in the Columbia River – Revelstoke with that kind of money.

At present calculations, the Illecillewaet project is now going to cost $85.2 million, and the federal government is only contributing $15.5 million towards it. No matter how much costs balloon under the BCNDP, tax payers are all on the hook for anything over and above the $15.5 million.

Despite affordability concerns across the province, the BCNDP has introduced 19 new or increased taxes since taking power two years ago. How is it that John Horgan and the BCNDP are making life more affordable for you?

Lead image: The Illecillewaet overhead area of Highway 1. Government of BC Photo


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