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B.C. government launches Community Benefits Agreement for public-sector infrastructure projects

Premier John Horgan at a press conference in February announcing that the B.C. government will be replacing the Pattullo Bridge in New Westminster. The project will be one of the first to be bound by a Commnuity Measures Agreement announced today. Photo by Province of B.C./Flickr
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BURNABY, B.C. – B.C. Premier John Horgan announced today that the provincial government has launched a new Community Benefits Agreement landmark agreement for key public-sector infrastructure projects in B.C.

At a press conference at BCIT’s Ironworkers Training Campus in Burnaby, Horgan also announced that the Province has launched BC Infrastructure Benefits Inc. – a new Crown Corporation that will oversee public construction projects in B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena was named as the minister responsible for BCIB.

“British Columbians rightfully expect B.C. projects to benefit B.C. workers, families and communities. Our new Community Benefits Agreement will help deliver those benefits,” said Premier John Horgan. “With this agreement, we’re not just investing in roads, bridges and other infrastructure, we’re investing in good jobs and new opportunities for people who live in B.C. And with our focus on expanding apprenticeships for young British Columbians, we’re helping build B.C.’s next generation of construction workers.”

The Province says that the Agreement will implement a targeted approach to maximizing apprenticeship opportunities on major public infrastructure projects, with a focus on priority hiring and training of Indigenous workers and women.

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The government also says that priority hiring will be given to qualified individuals who live within close proximity of the projects, while contractors will be given flexibility by requesting named hires.

The first projects to be delivered under the new community benefits framework are the new Pattullo Bridge and the four-laning projects on the Trans-Canada Highway between Kamloops and Alberta.

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“British Columbians deserve the opportunity to work on major government projects being built in and near their communities,” said Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “This Community Benefits Agreement will put local people first in line for good jobs building the roads, bridges and other infrastructure we need.”

Signatories to the Community Benefits Agreement are BCIB, and the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council, which represents many of B.C.’s building trades. The government also said that contractors representing B.C.’s construction industry played an important advisory role as the agreement was developed.

The government’s announcement was received with praise from B.C. Building Trades Council executive director Tom Sigurdson, who spoke about the positives of Community Benefits Agreements during a keynote presentation to the Fort St. John & District Chamber of Commerce earlier this year.

“We continue to work with Indigenous groups and women in trades to expand apprenticeship and employment opportunities,” said Sigurdson. “Under a Community Benefits Agreement, these initiatives will translate directly into apprenticeship completions, which, in turn, will allow B.C. residents to support their families, to invest in their communities, and to build the B.C. economy.”

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association meanwhile denounced the government’s announcement. ICBA President Chris Gardner held a press conference immediately following the Premier’s announcement.

“For years, John Horgan has promised his political allies in the old-fashioned Building Trades unions that he would tilt the playing field in their favour. Today, it appears he will try and force that to happen through a restrictive and regressive PLA model for tendering government projects,” said Gardner. “Unfortunately for the taxpayers paying for provincial projects, this will mean much higher costs and it will give 15 percent of the construction workforce – the ones who gave millions of dollars to the NDP – a monopoly on work.”

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