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Letter to the Editor: There is ‘real evidence’ that projects built without PLAs can cost taxpayers dearly

Tom Sigurdson
Letter to the Editor: There is ‘real evidence’ that projects built without PLAs can cost taxpayers dearly

To the Editor,
Re: British Columbians can benefit from PLAs, but only when they are truly fair and open, an April 19 Letter to the Editor.

The accusation from Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA), that the BC Building Trades is “quick to discount all evidence” in regard to Project Labour Agreements (PLA), has left us shaking our heads.

The facts tell a very different story.

The Vancouver Island Highway Project (VIHP) did not face overruns or delays, and no matter how often people like de Jong say it, it won’t be true. The VIHP was completed in 2001 within the budget that was set in 1993.

The big highway cost overruns came in the 1980s when former premier Bill Vander Zalm decided to construct the Coquihalla Highway without a PLA with building trades. That project was completed at a cost of more than $1 billion based on a $400 million initial budget.

But don’t let us get accused of living in the 1980s or 1990s because there is plenty of evidence (real evidence) that projects built in the absence of PLAs can cost taxpayers dearly.

Here are a few:

  • The B.C. portion of the Evergreen line was budgeted at $410 million; final cost to us was $586 million, representing a 43 per cent increase.
  • The South Fraser Perimeter Road was budgeted at $635 million; final cost to us was $899 million, representing a 42 per cent increase.
  • The Vancouver Convention Centre was budgeted at $495 million; final cost to us was $841 million, representing a whopping 70 per cent increase.
  • The Port Mann Bridge was budgeted at $2.3398 billion; final cost to us was $3.3 billion, representing a 41 per cent increase.

Finally, let me emphasize that the BC Building Trades has not lobbied to have a monopoly on public construction work.

Rather, the BC Building Trades supports a model that would be open to all contractors, union and non-union.

Further, we believe that public infrastructure projects can and should provide community benefits that include opportunities for qualified local residents, apprentices, Indigenous workers and women in trades to help build and invest in their own communities.

And they should be paid fair wages.

This is neither unreasonable nor impossible. It’s just the right thing to do.

Tom Sigurdson,
Executive director
BC Building Trades

 

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