MLA Minute with Doug Clovechok

Since 2018, major infrastructure projects in British Columbia have been subjected to the NDP’s so-called Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs).  A ‘true’ CBA is supposed to leverage government spending on public infrastructure projects to obtain additional benefits to a community. These can provide increased employment and skills training, especially for members of groups who may be under-represented or historically disadvantaged. In theory, a reasonable idea. 

The truth is that the B.C. NDP CBAs are, in practice, project labour agreements or collective bargaining agreements that specify the labour arrangements for a construction project with the goal of resolving labour disputes and avoiding strikes and lockouts.

So what, you say? Well, here’s the rub: These CBAs shut out many workers and contractors by only allowing members of 19 labour unions – unions chosen by the B.C. NDP to access government contracts. Simply stated, members of labour unions that are not chosen or workers that are not unionized are completely left out of provincial government infrastructure employment opportunities because Premier David Eby has imposed CBAs on all provincial infrastructure projects. And that isn’t all. CBAs have also led to skyrocketing costs, significant construction delays, and reduced project scope. Despite NDP rhetoric, these agreements are simply preferential treatment given to NDP-friendly unions.

Such measures are jeopardizing the progress that we have made toward economic reconciliation. Indigenous workers and construction companies are excluded from projects if they are not members of the NDP’s hand-picked unions. This is what happened at the Cowichan District Hospital, a project that is being built on the lands of the Cowichan First Nations. The owner of an Indigenous construction company, Jon Coleman, is not able to work on the project because his company is not one the Eby chosen few. The project was originally budgeted for between $400 and $600 million but has now ballooned in cost to $1.4 billion. 

Rather than respecting your tax dollars and the rights of Indigenous contractors to work on projects in their own territory, the NDP notoriously choose their union donors over all others. 

Here in Columbia River-Revelstoke, our community has been significantly impacted by the CBAs through Phase 4 of the Kicking Horse Canyon project. The first three phases were completed under the former BC Liberal (now BC United) government who were able to deliver the project on budget and ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, Phase 4 was left to the current NDP government who, due primarily to CBAs, drove up costs by $151 million. At a time when people are struggling from the NDP’s middle-class squeeze, it is more important than ever that projects stay on budget and respect the contributions of B.C. taxpayers. 

Do you remember the NDP’s 2017 election promise to accelerate the development of four-laning the Trans-Canada Highway? This project has also been subject to the CBAs, driving up construction costs by 24 per cent and shrinking the scope of the project. It is now the end of 2023, and this election promise has been all but forgotten by this government. 

Imagine the impact that these millions of dollars could have had to help my constituents in Columbia River-Revelstoke with affordability issues, the housing crisis, the healthcare crisis, or the public safety crisis, and so much more. 

We need a government that will build the projects our province needs while respecting the workforce and the wallets of British Columbians. That’s why a BC United government will never pick winners and losers when it comes to supporting families in this province. We will scrap the NDP’s community rip-off agreements and get real results for British Columbians.

I want to hear from you about any concerns you have about this or any other issue. I read every email I receive. Please reach out to me at [email protected] or call my office in Kimberley at (250) 432-2300 or Revelstoke at (250) 805-0323.