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B.C. election, Iranian plane tragedy, rise of mass timber among JOC top newsmakers

Lindsey Cole
B.C. election, Iranian plane tragedy, rise of mass timber among JOC top newsmakers

There was no shortage of news for the Journal of Commerce (JOC) team in 2020, even when taking COVID-19 out of the equation.

Premier John Horgan called a snap election, pipeline projects continued to cause controversy, a plane crash a world away was felt locally and mass timber construction truly began to take root in B.C.

The following are the JOC’s top picks for additional headline-makers as we say hello to 2021 and leave 2020 behind us.


B.C. election secures NDP majority

The decision by Premier John Horgan to call an election in September was met with criticism from some who felt a short election campaign during a pandemic may not have been the best timing.

But candidates hit the campaign trail anyway, quickly assembling platforms with infrastructure investment and controversial projects in the spotlight.

One of the more notable campaign pledges came from the BC Liberals who promised to build a 10-lane bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel as part of their $8 billion Rebuild BC plan.

The BC NDP quickly fired back stating plans for a new toll-free crossing are “well underway” with final approval in the works.

Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) also played a role during the campaign with the BC Liberals coming out against the use of CBAs and the BC NDP holding steady on the effectiveness of their use for major projects in order to give underrepresented groups more opportunities.

It was ultimately the BC NDP who came out on top in October with a majority government win.

But not everyone in the construction industry was rejoicing Horgan’s victory. Some feared old issues would still remain, and new ones could be on the horizon. Other stakeholders were cautiously optimistic.


Iranian plane tragedy impacts Canadian construction industry

In January 2020 all 176 people on board Ukrainian Airlines flight PS752 were killed near Tehran shortly after takeoff. Sixty-three of them were Canadians and among those were several members of the construction community.

Among those who perished were Winnipeg couple Madhi Sadeghi and Bahareh Hajesfandiari who were civil engineers at Fresh Projects Design Builders and Marwest Construction, respectively. They were travelling with their daughter Anisa Sadeghi.

The Winnipeg Construction Association, Marwest and the Canadian Construction Association all expressed their condolences.  


Trans Mountain reaches milestones, makes headlines yet again

News surrounding the Trans Mountain pipeline project started off on a high in 2020 for construction industry leaders who were elated with news that the project could once again proceed through B.C.

The Supreme Court of Canada decided unanimously to dismiss the province’s appeal of a lower court decision that stopped legislation aimed at halting construction of the pipeline.

As the year progressed, so did construction, with the project reaching a key milestone as crews started working on a seven-kilometre section of the line in Kamloops.

In September, the pipeline’s chief executive said the project was on budget and on schedule for completion by the end of 2022. At the time, Ian Anderson said it was advancing as expected despite challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic.

But in late December the Journal of Commerce reported that construction was halted until Jan. 4 for safety reasons. Documents from a Canada Energy Regulator (CER) inspector following visits to Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project jobsites in the Lower Mainland revealed “systemic non-compliance” of COVID-19 protocols.

In addition, WorkSafeBC and CER are investigating an incident that put a contractor employee at the Burnaby Terminal site in the hospital. No further details on the nature of the incident were provided.


Mass timber officially takes root in B.C.

Mass timber was already making headlines in B.C. and across the country with notable projects such as the Brock Commons student residence being built and other large builds following suit by making timber the top choice.

However, a major move was made by the provincial government in 2020 that saw the appointment of Ravi Kahlon, the parliamentary secretary for forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development, to spearhead the expansion and use of mass timber in construction.

The government said Kahlon will work with stakeholders to build new markets for mass timber products to assist the province as it plans to rebuild the economy in the wake of COVID-19. 

The official mandate had industry stakeholders optimistic about the future of construction in B.C. with sustainability at the forefront.

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