OTTAWA – The Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA) has released a statement urging the federal government not to approve the sale of Aecon to China Communications Construction Co. Ltd (CCCC).
But Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU) took an opposing viewpoint in a commentary released the same day.
The Feb. 8 statement by the PCA follows a similar announcement by the Canadian Construction Association registering its opposition to government-owned or controlled entities competing for construction contracts.
The federal government is reviewing the proposed takeover under the Investment Canada Act.
“PCA is a strong advocate of fair and open construction tendering,” said Darrel Reid, PCA vice-president of public affairs in the statement.
“We are adding our voice to a growing group of builders, safety and public policy experts who view this potential takeover with great concern.
“Canada has built a strong, competitive construction sector. Opening the door to a foreign state-owned entity with a global reputation for questionable business practices could seriously undermine our industry.”
The CBTU statement said, “Construction is a highly competitive business and there are not a huge number of firms with the financial, management, engineering and trades skills required to do most any project. Aecon is a company that has these capabilities; but its capacity has limits.”
In arguing a larger Aecon with more resources would be able to pursue bigger projects and thus employ more trades workers, the statement pointed to an Australian experience.
“CCCI acquired an iconic Australian company, John Holland, in 2015,” the statement said.
“CCCC’s capital strength allowed John Holland to bid more, do more and put more Australian tradespeople to work. There, like here, a few people sniped from the sidelines about how ‘cheap Chinese steel and much else would sneak in,’ but that didn’t happen. Other major Canadian construction companies seem to be reacting in the same way; the truth is that they are worried about the pressure that a much stronger Aecon can bring into the bidding process. That is certainly not an unreasonable fear, but it is a competitive fear not some sort of overt nationalist fear.”