Andrew Wilkinson, leader of the BC Liberals, advocated for doing away with Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) and pushing ahead with large infrastructure investments in a one-on-one conversation with the Journal of Commerce (JOC).
National managing editor Vince Versace interviewed Wilkinson who is challenging Premier John Horgan’s NDPs in this month’s provincial election on Oct. 24. The JOC did not receive responses from the BC NDP or BC Green Party to interview requests.
“B.C. has been fortunate that our construction sector has carried on throughout the COVID-19 epidemic,” said Wilkinson, who added despite this 15,000 lost people their jobs in the construction sector in September in the province. “It is troublesome, but we have to do what we can to make sure skilled people are kept in work by having the right kind of public infrastructure projects and the private infrastructure projects we want to encourage.”
When asked about the NDP’s CBAs, Wilkinson explained he believes the policy is deeply unfair.
“I came through high school without any family connections,” he said. “My parents weren’t those kinds of people. I was on my own entirely. It’s very deeply wired in me that everyone should be treated the same way and that there is no special deal for a certain group of people. You do it on merits and you earn your way.”
Wilkinson said hiring should not be based on political party contributions and called CBAs “union benefits agreements.”
“That’s where the money goes,” said Wilkison, who lamented that despite the years-long campaign by the NDP regarding the CBAs, he believes few residents truly understand the implications of them.
“The extra cost per-metre of road was $10,000 to deal with the union benefits agreements,” said Wilkinson, referring to a highway project near Illecillewaet. “That’s how expensive some of these (union benefits agreements) are and we think it’s inappropriate to have taxpayers pay excess prices for projects in order to satisfy the unions because they donated to the NDP in the past. We just think that’s fundamentally wrong.”
Wilkinson concluded those who work on contracts should be chosen based on merit rather than union affiliation.
“Don’t get me wrong,” He said. “There is a role for unionized construction workers and that is between them and their employer. If the crew wants to unionize that’s their business. We believe that people who have the skills should be able to compete for the work. We have a lot of work to do so let’s get going.”
On infrastructure, Wilkinson argued the NDP has done little to get projects completed. He promised to invest in major infrastructure upgrades like a bridge replacement for the George Massey Tunnel if the Liberals are elected.
Wilkinson explained the COVID-19 pandemic is likely far from over and infrastructure spending could be key to keeping the economy going.
“We can keep our skilled construction workforce working through this,” he said. “Government can borrow money at very low interest rates now. This is very viable infrastructure. So if you aren’t’ going to build it now, when would you?”
To see the full interview with BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson check out our video series.