The British Columbia construction industry is reacting to the latest shifts in the political landscape with a mix of concern and hope for the future.
After a historic electoral fight in early May, neither the ruling Liberals nor the NDP emerged with a clear majority, giving the B.C.’s Green Party the ability to choose with whom to form the next government. On May 29 Green leader Andrew Weaver and NDP leader John Horgan announced a partnership between the two parties.
British Columbia Construction Association president Chris Achison expressed optimism but said the current political situation does bring a measure of uncertainty to the construction industry.
"The respective platforms of each party indicates support for investment and commitment to the construction industry," Achison said, in terms of support for infrastructure and community development.
"As long as government is committed to build infrastructure and address safety, growth and due process, as we have in the past, we’ll find a way to work and advocate for our industry in whatever paradigm we’re entering into," he added.
"There’s a general concern as to how the approval process changes going forward," Independent Contractors and Businesses Association president Chris Gardner said. "I’m concerned it will have a negative impact on the economy as a whole, and the construction sector specifically."
Gardner stressed several large-scale projects are already underway or are well through the planning process, and singled out Site C as an example.
"Site C went through an approval process for eight years, and there are 2,000 people working on it right now. If it was delayed or cancelled, that’s effectively laying off those workers," he said. "Those are paycheques supporting families and people building skills and helping to build our province."
The Sea to Sky Highway and Port Mann Bridge were also opposed by the NDP, Gardner said.
"It’s easy to say ‘no’, but what will you support to build our province and economy?" he asked. "Politics should be taken out of the approval process, and out of building infrastructure for our province."
Vancouver Regional Construction Association president Fiona Famulak also expressed concern about the fate of current large scale projects.
"Of immediate concern are the parties’ positions on projects like Site C and Kinder Morgan, particularly when those have gone through proper consultation and assessment process," Famulak said.
But she added both parties have committed to infrastructure in the form of schools, wastewater treatment plants and other projects as well as supporting skills training.
"I don’t know the impact on the economy or jobs," Famulak said. "But what’s more troubling is the message sent to investors outside of B.C."
"B.C.’s challenge is to maintain its reputation as a great place to invest, and changes of direction put that growth at risk," Achison echoed.
In a minority agreement released on May 30, the NDP-Green alliance indicated they would fight the federally approved Kinder Morgan project, and said Site C will proceed for the moment but will go under review a short time after the two parties assume power.
Current B.C. premier Christy Clark announced on May 30 she would stay on as premier for the moment but would hold a confidence vote soon in the provincial legislature and would resign if she lost.