Members of the Fort McMurray Construction Association (FMCA) are calling on the Alberta government to allow local contractors to be included in the procurement process and provided with an opportunity to bid on wildfire fighting and cleanup work.
"The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has a plan for the fire cleanup, but they told local contractors that you did not register so we are not including you," said FMCA president Charles Iggulden. "Obviously, we were busy at the time the fire started, but now there are resources available that were not available when the ministry went out."
Members of the FMCA are disappointed and upset that Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) is not allowing them to register and be listed as pre-qualified contractors to bid on Fort McMurray cleanup work, said Iggulden.
Premier Rachel Notley toured Fort McMurray on May 9 and said about 2,400 buildings, or 10 per cent of the buildings in the city, have been damaged or destroyed. Most of Fort McMurray’s infrastructure was not destroyed, but the wildfire is still out of control and covers about 229,000 hectares.
In response to this situation, Iggulden sent a letter on May 10 to Notley and Oneil Carlier, the minister of agriculture and forestry.
"Notwithstanding the economic conditions many of the businesses in Fort McMurray were dealing with prior to the fire, the Fort McMurray Construction Association has concerns that the Alberta Government and other authorities will ignore the fact that Fort McMurray has a large supply of contractors and equipment who can assist with the needs of Sustainable Resource Development to aid in the fight of the fire and the subsequent cleanup," said Iggulden in the letter to Carlier.
"By ignoring our local contractors at this stage of the fight, you may actually be inflating the cost associated with rebuilding as these contractors may have to close down their businesses."
The FMCA’s difficulties with SRD began about a year ago, when a registry of prequalified contractors was created. At that time, the SRD said they would not use Fort McMurray contractors because they were not on the list.
"What we are saying is we have resources here, which can save the government money in terms of mobilization and get guys back to work," said Iggulden. "Even if guys have to commute for a while, at least they would have an income coming in to support their families. This also provides certainty in their lives and businesses. I know we can’t handle everything, but every dollar that goes back to local contractors is spent in the local community."
Iggulden has yet to receive a response from Carlier to the letter, which said FMCA members are able and ready to help SRD in the issuance of contracts.
For example, the FMCA has been working with the Regional Emergency Operations Centre to provide a comprehensive list of contractors in Fort McMurray.
Iggulden also sent a letter to Notley asking for interim finance for construction contractors because many FMCA members are currently in need of a helping hand.
"The wildfire in Fort McMurray has decimated our community, but the disaster will continue to get worse if the trades and small businesses in Fort McMurray are unable to survive both the loss of work, and the loss of Accounts Receivable," said Iggulden in the letter. "That is, the fire has, in many cases, eliminated all opportunities to earn income in the immediate and near future."
More importantly, Iggulden said not all of the money earned for work performed prior to the fire will be collectable as those clients are facing the same plight as FMCA members.
"When the rebuilding effort gets underway in earnest, it may be too late for many of us to save our business," he said.
For this reason, the FMCA is asking for immediate access to government-backed loans and emergency bridge financing to sustain local businesses in order for them to survive until the rebuild really begins.
Iggulden said this funding must be in place within weeks, not months, or the relief will be too late to save local business. Immediate action is necessary to prioritize the local business owners who are facing both the damage and loss to their businesses and, in some cases, the additional loss of their own homes, he said.
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