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Q&A: B.C. electrical contractors look to ‘keep up the pressure’ on prompt payment

Russell Hixson
Q&A: B.C. electrical contractors look to ‘keep up the pressure’ on prompt payment
PROVINCE OF B.C. — A student in B.C. undergoes training to be an electrician. The Electrical Contractors Association of B.C. note while provincial officials say they are getting closer to prompt payment legislation, they want to keep up the pressure until it happens.

Prompt payment remains a prominent issue in the B.C. construction industry.

With legislation either implemented or in progress in other provinces, many construction stakeholders in B.C. are pushing on their legislators for a similar outcome in the west. While government officials have said they are making progress on the issue, Deborah Cahill, president of the Electrical Contractors Association of B.C. (ECABC), says her group and its members intend to keep up the pressure.


Why is prompt payment legislation important to ECABC and its members?

For every day we delay, our members are having to spend precious time and resources to chase down payment for work they have already done. This means they might not be able to finance their next job, or need to pause on hiring new staff, which limits the creation of family-supporting jobs. Prompt payment legislation will help strengthen relationships in B.C.’s construction sector as a whole, which is demonstrated by the efforts of my colleagues at the Mechanical Contractors Association of BC and the BC Construction Association, who are also advocating to see this legislation come to light.

Beyond the financials, there is also a human cost to this issue – sleepless nights worrying about whether you have enough money coming in for payroll after an unpaid invoice can really affect a person and their family.


What have you been hearing from members about the impact of late payment?

The impacts can be massive, particularly to small- and medium-sized businesses. Everything from having to take on extra debt to finance their next job because they haven’t been paid from the last one, to our members having to lay off staff because their last invoice hasn’t been paid. For every dollar spent on unnecessary financing or hiring lawyers to chase payments, there is a dollar that can’t be put back into their business. It adds extra costs to publicly funded projects, like schools or hospitals. Our members deserve to be paid promptly for work they have completed and we hope there is legislation to ensure that happens soon.


What has ECABC been doing to make progress on this issue?

We’ve been working with our industry partners for a number of years on this issue. From town halls, to letter campaigns, to meetings with decision-makers in past and present governments, we’ve come from almost every angle to try to move this important piece of legislation forward. It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve picked up some momentum over the last little bit that I’m hopeful will continue all the way to the finish line.


Are you satisfied with how the province is moving on prompt payment?

We’ve been told they were mostly looking to see how the legislation has played out in Ontario. I’ll admit, it was slightly frustrating to hear that, as we feel we have been doing our best to let them know the model in Ontario has been working. I will say, however, it was nice to hear they recognize there is a problem and that the attorney general agrees in principle that there needs to be a fix. Saying that, our members are still finding it tough to continue to wait. Every day of missed payment adds to their costs.

Our hope is that with the missing pieces that Dan Leduc (a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP) and our members can provide, we can move forward quickly and get this done ASAP.


What is your response to government officials who said during the recent town halls that progress is being made on prompt payment legislation?

Frankly, we need to keep the pressure on. It was great to hear that they understand there is a problem and want to fix it, but every day of inaction makes it harder and harder for our members to do business in this province.


How would prompt payment legislation impact your members?

It would allow our members to spend their time and resources on what they do best – building British Columbia. If our members were consistently paid on time for work already completed, they would be able to better plan their next job, invest in training for their employees, and just simply sleep better at night knowing that they aren’t going to have to chase payment that’s rightfully theirs.


Follow the author on Twitter @RussellReports.

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