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New Provincial Policy Could Cost B.C. Taxpayers $6.4 Billion


July 16, 2018

A new study by think tank Cardus suggests the cost of British Columbia’s public infrastructure projects could balloon by up to $6.4 billion if the province moves to restrict bidding on construction contracts. 

The provincial government has mused about imposing project labour agreements (PLAs) on infrastructure construction. Restrictive PLAs limit bidding on construction projects to firms based on union affiliation. Any firms not affiliated with those unions workers would be forced to pay dues to a union that they did not choose in order for their company to bid on work. The province has an estimated $25.6 billion worth of bridges, roads, hospitals, schools, and B.C. Hydro projects planned over the next three years, media reports suggest. The new Cardus report, Skimming off the Top: How Closed Tendering Weakens our Ability to Pursue the Public Good, cites research that shows restricted bidding typically blocks eight out of 10 contractors from bidding on work, forcing up contract prices by anywhere from two to 25 percent. Based on that research, restrictive PLAs could add from $512 million to $6.4 billion to B.C.’s future infrastructure construction costs.

“Restricted bidding isn’t in the public interest,” says report author Brian Dijkema. “It plays favourites with a small group of firms, placing specific corporate interests over the interests of the public paying for the projects, the interests of construction workers, and the interests of the construction industry.”

Dijkema notes B.C.’s debate over PLAs isn’t just about public dollars.

“At its heart this is about whether the government will respect the diverse choices of all of its citizens, or stack the deck for those who align with the government,” he says. “Union, alternative union, and non-union labour are all deeply embedded in B.C.’s public construction industry, and have been for years. Government’s role is not to pick winners in a diverse labour landscape; it is to ensure a fair, transparent, and competitive procurement process for all of it citizens, for the public interest.” 

To access Skimming off the Top, click here.



Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus – Director of Communications

Office: 613-241-4500 x508