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NDP minister mandates focus on increased B.C. social infrastructure

Jean Sorensen
NDP minister mandates focus on increased B.C. social infrastructure

Mandate letters that have gone out from B.C. Premier John Horgan’s office lean heavily towards providing social infrastructure, creating more opportunities for apprentices, while looking critically at energy projects underway and in the future.

Building more rental and social housing as well as more community recreation facilities, pushing forward Highway 1 to Alberta, lobbying for federal dollars for the Pattullo Bridge replacement, making it easier to build student housing at universities and bringing schools up to seismic standards are all mandates that translate into future work for B.C.’s construction industry.

But, the terms of work may be different. The new premier has also charged his cabinet with setting down ratios for the number of apprentices working on government projects, a move to hire locally, a registry for foreign workers and moving the minimum wage to $15 over the next five years.

The letters also order a utilities commission review of Site C, set out eyeing critically the Kinder Morgan heavy-oil pipeline proposal and spell out goals for any LNG project in B.C.

Here’s a rundown of Horgan’s orders as they impact B.C.’s construction industry:

Minister of Transportation and

Infrastructure Claire Trevena

Accelerate Highway 1 upgrades to the Alberta border.

Work with the municipal affairs and housing minister to secure federal funding for the Pattullo Bridge replacement and rapid transit in Metro Vancouver as part of implementing the mayor’s 10-year plan for transit and transportation.

Ensure that BC Ferries procurement practices for new ferries provide for a fair and competitive bidding process that is open to B.C. shipyards.

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare

  • Establish an arts infrastructure fund to help provide space for B.C. artists.
  • Work with the municipal affairs and housing minister to develop a community capital infrastructure fund to upgrade and build sports facilities, playgrounds, local community centres and arts and culture spaces.

Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark

  • Work with the education minister to support co-op, apprenticeship and work-experience programs for high school and undergraduate students.
  • Work with the Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry to implement effective apprenticeship ratios on government-funded infrastructure projects and increase participation of equity-seeking groups in the skilled workforce.

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson

  • Partner with local governments and First Nations to develop a community capital infrastructure fund to upgrade and build sports facilities, playgrounds, local community centres and arts and culture spaces.
  • Through partnerships with local governments, the federal government, and the private and not-for-profit sectors, begin to build 114,000 units of affordable market rental, non-profit, co-op, supported social housing and owner-purchase housing.
  • Create new student housing by removing "unnecessary" rules that prevent universities and colleges from building affordable student housing.
  • As the minister responsible for TransLink to support the Mayors’ Council 10-Year Vision for Metro Vancouver Transportation by funding 40 per cent of the capital costs of every phase of the plan, in partnership with all levels of government.

Minister of Labour Harry Bains

  • Establish a Fair Wage Commission to support the work of implementing the $15-per-hour minimum wage by 2021 and to bring forward recommendations to close the gap between the minimum wage and livable wages. The commission will make its first report within 90 days of its first meeting.
  • Create a Temporary Foreign Worker registry to help protect vulnerable workers from exploitation and to track the use of temporary workers in B.C.’s economy.
  • Update employment standards to reflect the changing nature of workplaces and ensure they are applied evenly and enforced.
  • Review and develop options with WorkSafeBC to increase compliance with employment laws and standards put in place to protect the lives and safety of workers.

Minister of Education Rob Fleming

  • Create an ongoing capital fund for school playgrounds.
  • Make schools safer by accelerating the seismic upgrade program.
  • Work in partnership to build and upgrade schools in every region of the province.

Minister of Jobs, Trade, and Technology Bruce Ralston

  • Work with the Ministry of Finance to cut the small-business tax rate and create a Small Business Task Force.
  • Create a framework to promote local hiring on government projects.
  • Work with the minister of advanced education, skills and training to improve credential assessments and create a centre to co-ordinate and educate newcomers in their fields.

Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Doug Donaldson

  • Expand B.C.’s innovative wood products sector by addressing regulatory and capital barriers hampering the growth of engineered wood production and work with other ministers to ensure public projects prioritize the use of B.C. wood.
  • Minister of Finance

Deputy Premier Carole James

  • Take measures to improve housing affordability, close real estate speculation loopholes and reduce tax fraud and money laundering in the B.C. real estate marketplace.
  • Develop funding partnerships with the federal government, First Nations, municipalities, pension funds, financial institutions and businesses to invest in new capital infrastructure across the province over the next five years.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman

  • Employ every tool available to defend B.C.’s interests in the face of the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the threat of a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic on B.C.’s coast. Recently, counsel was retained to challenge the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project.

Minister of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall

  • Freeze BC Hydro rates while conducting a comprehensive review of the Crown corporation.
  • Immediately refer the Site C dam construction project to the BC Utilities Commission on the question of economic viability of the project.
  • Develop an improved and properly resourced approvals process to assess mining applications and increase industry safety by establishing an independent oversight unit.
  • Ensure British Columbians benefit from liquefied natural gas projects by requiring proposals to meet the following four conditions: Proposals must include express guarantees of jobs and training opportunities for British Columbians; they must provide a fair return for B.C.’s resource; they must respect and make partners of First Nations; and they must protect B.C.’s air, land and water, including living up to B.C.’s climate commitments.

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