The Canadian steel industry is disappointed and upset that the federal government is not supporting local producers and manufacturers in the procurement process for the multi-billion dollar Champlain Bridge project in Quebec.
"What we have been trying to do is talk to the government and say you should encourage the use of Canadian steel on this project and provide some content requirements, because this is a critical piece of Canadian infrastructure," said Tareq Ali, Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC) marketing and communications director.
"We need to make sure this project is well built, high quality and competitive, but also ensure there is a level playing field and Canadian content is encouraged."
The St. Lawrence corridor project, which includes the new $5-billion Champlain Bridge, is one of the largest infrastructure projects in North America. The existing bridge is one of the busiest crossings in Canada and is a crucial corridor for the national economy.
The CISC has serious concerns about the federal procurement process, because it fails to promote local content or impose restrictions on U.S. and other foreign steel manufacturers.
"They didn’t listen to any of our advice or our request to have this very critical project safe-guarded," said Ali. "What we are seeing from our federal government is a reluctance to stand up and ensure a level playing field. We are not asking for protectionism. We are asking for the government to simply ensure that everything is fair and square."
In July, the Canadian government invited Signature on the St. Lawrence Group, Saint-Laurent Alliance and St. Lawrence New Bridge Partnership to submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) to build the new Champlain Bridge.
"So, what we are doing now is waiting for the contract to be awarded to whatever consortia is going to build this project, and we will work with them on the material supply," said Ali.
"We are trying to promote the selection of steel versus concrete, and we are promoting Canadian steel."
The RFP contains technical specifications with which the three consortia will have to comply to ensure the new bridge is safe, reliable and has a 125-year design life.
The second stage of the RFP process will select a consortium to design, build, finance, operate and maintain a new bridge to replace the existing structure by July 2015.
The Canadian steel industry is pushing the federal government to ensure the quotes and products used for this project meet the highest international standards.
At the same time, Canadian steel manufacturers are being treated unfairly by the U.S. government and its protectionist Buy America policy.
For example, the Canadian steel industry is currently being prevented from participating in the construction of a new $20 million ferry terminal in Prince Rupert, B.C.
The port is on Canadian Crown land, but the property is leased to the Prince Rupert port authority, who in turn sublet the existing terminal and land to the State of Alaska under a 50-year lease.
All iron and steel products associated with the construction of the terminal are subject to Buy America provisions, which are a condition of U.S. federal government grants.
On the flip side, the town of Morrison, Colo. is considering the deconstruction of the South Park Street Bridge and the removal of all Canadian steel, which was inadvertently used in construction.
Buy America provisions required all steel and iron products used in the project to be sourced and manufactured in the U.S.
In response to this situation, the Canadian steel industry strongly urges all levels of government in Canada to immediately adopt Reciprocity and Fair Trade Resolutions or Acts.
"If they fail to listen to us or ignore us, we should just slap reciprocity on them," said Ali. "If you won’t let us work down there, you can’t work on our bridges."
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