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Industry Voices Op-Ed: It’s time to leave the BC Construction Association

Norm Streu
Industry Voices Op-Ed: It’s time to leave the BC Construction Association

LMS has quit the Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA).  

Why? 

The provincial level of the construction associations, the BC Construction Association (BCCA), is no longer a group we have confidence in.   

Consider the following, and query whether this is a group you want to represent your interests with the current government.

On July 17, Premier John Horgan launched the community benefits program for B.C. public projects.   This program requires all workers on specified projects to join a traditional trade union, effectively handing these projects to the NDP’s union supporters on a platter.  

In attendance at the announcement was BCCA president Chris Atchison, who later tweeted the BCCA’s support of the new initiative.  

Since that time, the BCCA has back-tracked somewhat, deleting the tweet and issuing a release expressing that it is now “very concerned” with the initiative.   

In an article published in the Vancouver Sun on July 18, Mr. Atchison referenced the furor over the community benefits program by calling it a “partisan controversy,” and then wholly side-stepped the issue, going on to propose the formation of a “Ministry of the Built Environment.”

Norm Streu
Norm Streu

In our opinion, the BCCA’s approach is offensive on any number of levels, including:

  1. The photo and tweet of Mr. Atchison with the premier as he announced the program is clear evidence of either the association having consulted with the government on the initiative, or alternatively, gross incompetence on the issue;
  2. The wishy-washy subsequent news release expressing “concerns” was wholly insufficient to rectify the damage done;
  3. The op-ed in the Vancouver Sun calling the concerns over the community benefits program a “partisan controversy” is grossly inaccurate.  It is not “partisan” to expect a fair, open and transparent bid process. By dismissing the issue as a partisan controversy and then side stepping it, Mr. Atchison effectively supports the government’s position and does nothing to express how objectionable the initiative is to the vast majority of the industry he represents;
  4. Mr. Atchison’s argument that the real problem is not the initiative, but the lack of a specific ministry to deal with construction, a “Ministry of the Built Environment,” shows just how out of touch he is with real world concerns. Creating a completely new government bureaucracy (that no other jurisdiction in the western world has) is hardly the solution. What we need is not another government department, what we need is a construction association that stands up for the most basic principles of free enterprise and competitive bid processes.

Finally, where was the BCCA on this issue since the election of the NDP government? 

It certainly was no secret that this was coming, yet the BCCA did absolutely nothing to express the industry’s concerns.  

Even more concerning is the possibility that the BCCA quietly consulted with the government on it for months in advance.

It should be noted that the VRCA board and staff have been more vocal in expressing their opposition to the community benefits program.  

Among other things, they have joined with the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, the BC Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Surrey Board of Trade in a letter sent July 25 to Horgan. 

These actions by the VRCA are certainly on the right track and should be recognized as such.

However, unfortunately for the VRCA, our membership in the BCCA comes through the VRCA, and they ultimately bear the responsibility for the BCCA’s action. 

Therefore, short of an immediate dismissal of Mr. Atchison or a decision by the VRCA board to quit the BCCA, we do not see ourselves rejoining the VRCA.   

Norm Streu is president and COO of LMS Reinforcing Steel Group. Send Industry Voices comments or questions to editor@journalofcommerce.com

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