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NDP will hurt construction

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British Columbia’s construction industry along with the entire economy will suffer if the NDP win the May 14 provincial election and bring in changes that will tilt the labour system towards the building trades unions.

ICBA President Philip Hochstein raised the alarm bell in a column that ran in today’s Vancouver Sun. The entire article is below.

NDP Will Hurt Construction

May 1, 2013 Vancouver Sun – pA6

What’s at risk when British Columbians head to the polls on May 14 is the progress the construction industry has made over the past 12 years.

Since 2001, there has been a balanced approach to economic and labour issues to help our industry thrive and grow. Massive government investments have helped erase the infrastructure deficit built up in the 1990s. And an open approach has helped train and graduate record numbers of skilled workers (twice the number that graduated at the turn of the century).

This will be shattered if the NDP win the May election. Their recently released platform contains a shocking about-face for the construction industry, with a promise to push provincially funded construction under project agreements. That is code for imposing building-trade-union-only contracts on provincial work and even municipal government projects partly funded by Victoria.

The NDP will also tilt the entire economy toward unionization by stripping away workers’ democratic votes on whether or not they want to be in a union. It would be replaced by a system based on signed cards – a shady system open to abuse and intimidation.

Unions will also get a helping hand from changes to the skills training system. The NDP and the old-style craft unions have consistently attacked the 40 per cent completion rate in trades training. They keep calling this a failure, despite the fact that graduation rates have consistently been around 40 per cent since the 1990s.

I am expecting a return to the past in the system, done under the guise of fixing it, by imposing apprenticeship quotas that limit the number of trainees a company can have based on the number of certified workers they have. It is the classic guild model of unions – the more you can limit supply, the more you can increase the prices.

Construction companies – and in fact most employers – can expect beefed up enforcement around these quotas. A new army of government workers will be tasked with building a brave new world of paperwork nightmares and staffing disruptions for companies.

The icing on the cake for all of this, is the investment chill that will fall over British Columbia. The NDP has opposed every major project being put forward recently – natural gas development in the north, pipeline construction, a new oil refinery on the north coast. Rejecting these projects before any formal plans come forward sends a chilling message to potential investors: Invest somewhere else.

And that builds a chilling future for the construction companies who build these projects and help to build the entire economy in this province.

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