British Columbians worried that the province’s new union-only construction rules will drive up costs should wait and see how Metro Vancouver’s new Pattullo Bridge replacement project turns out, says Premier John Horgan.
Horgan defended his new project labour agreements, which mandate workers join unions on the $1.4-billion Pattullo project, as well as the $550-million highway widening project from Kamloops to Alberta, saying the changes will train more apprentices, provide certainty on costs, and prevent strikes or labour disputes.
“I know that the opponents of project labour agreements have put out significant numbers concerning what the consequences will be,” Horgan told reporters at the legislature on Monday.
“I’ll remind you that we’ve got two projects underway now, the Pattullo replacement project — for which tenders have been put out (and) we’ll see what comes back — and the four-laning of Highway 1. So I think before we have too many people piling on about the consequences, we should get the tenders back and we should start these projects before we start criticizing them.”
The Pattullo replacement will take until 2023 to complete.
“If we’re spending a billion and a half dollars on a bridge, we should be getting something out of it other than the bridge,” said Horgan, who argued the labour rules will favour hiring local workers, Aboriginals, women and set a 25-per-cent benchmark for apprenticeship spots.
Horgan said the use of project labour agreements goes back to major B.C. Hydro dams built under Social Credit premier W.A.C. Bennett.
The Opposition Liberals have called the changes a sweetheart deal for the NDP’s major union supporters and discriminates against the almost 80 per cent of the construction sector that is not unionized.
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