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Building Trades and businesses host conference on Community Benefits Agreements

Jean Sorensen
Building Trades and businesses host conference on Community Benefits Agreements

The Community Benefits Coalition of B.C., an organization that represents the B.C. Building Trades and community organizations, is hosting a day-long conference on Community Benefits Agreements (CBA) with speakers from government, labour and businesses.

Two panel sessions, one in the morning and a second in the afternoon, deal with how other jurisdictions have employed community benefits labour agreements and also how project labour agreements have been used on Canadian projects. Project labour agreements are similar to CBAs.

The conference, entitled Building for the Future, is slated for Jan. 25 at the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver starting at 8 a.m. The session is billed as hearing “from industry experts across North America who are building with CBAs and join the dialogue on maximizing community benefits in B.C.”

The welcome and First Nations greeting will be given jointly by B.C. Building Trades Council executive director Tom Sigurdson and Kirsten Wilson, president of Jack Cewe Ltd., a paving and quarry company, followed by opening remarks by the B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena. Wilson was recently appointed to the ministry’s new BC Infrastructure Benefits board that will oversee CBAs on the new Pattullo Bridge and projects within Trans-Canada’s four-laning program to ensure there is adequate training and recruitment of skilled labour. 

The morning sessions will consist of Bob Collins, an economist for BuildForce Canada, who is scheduled to speak on managing B.C. skill shortages, followed by B.C. government project executive director Vicki Willow, who will discuss the CBA framework.

The late morning panel of speakers will discuss how a community benefits plan works in action, with speakers coming from outside of B.C. On the panel are: Mark Hovatter, chief facilities director for the Los Angeles Unified School District; Mark Johnson, a nationally recognized labour relations professional; Anna Pavlik, labour equity program manager for the City of Seattle; and Mark Wheeler, a lawyer and deputy director for Puget Sound Transit, who handles project labour agreements.

Melanie Mark, minister of advanced education, skills and training, will give a 10-minute speech prior to lunch. No guest speaker is slotting into the lunch period.    

The after-lunch panel deals with project labour agreements and building on their success. The lineup of speakers includes Wally Penner, SNC-Lavalin regional project manager, who will speak on the Kootenay’s Waneta Expansion Project, a power plant project utilizing community workers; Arlene Dunn, deputy director of the Canada’s Building Trades Union, speaking on the Hebron Project; and Tony Fanelli, executive director for the Construction Labour Relations Association of Ontario, who will speak on the Kitimat Modernization Project.

The remainder of the afternoon will be reserved for breakout sessions and a half-hour networking session ending the day at 5 p.m.

Registration can be completed at, the coalition’s website.

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