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OP/ED: Deconstructing the NDP’s Construction Platform

The following op-ed by ICBA President Chris Gardner first appeared on The Orca on October 8, 2020.

As a second wave of the COVID-19 virus spreads throughout so many communities, government is on hold because the NDP called an election that nobody wants or needs. Today, families across BC are focused on COVID-19 alerts at the school their children are attending, people are worried about their jobs, and businesses are fighting just to survive. The uncertainty, and in some cases fear, is real and being felt by all of us who have been asked to sacrifice so much over the past seven months.

And yet we are in a provincial election campaign, thanks to John Horgan.

No matter how reckless or ill-conceived, Horgan has the election that he wanted and here we are, left to digest the BC NDP platform released yesterday. And, unfortunately, it is full of bad news for open shop contractors – which employs more than 200,000 men and women in BC, some 85% of all construction workers in this province.

  1. The NDP platform states that an NDP Government will make sure “every worker has the right to join a union and bargain for fair working conditions.” Every worker in BC has these rights already! What the NDP really mean is that they will be stripping from workers the right to choose whether or not to join a union through a secret ballot vote in favour of a “card-check” system open to manipulation. The NDP tried to do this in 2019, but the BC Liberals and the Green Party voted together to save the secret ballot and preserve this important right for workers.
  2. After cutting 85% of construction workers out of billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded work through their “community benefit agreements” on the Pattullo Bridge and other infrastructure projects, the NDP platform promises even more preferential treatment for the building trades unions: “Wherever possible, we will attach our Community Benefits Agreement to projects launched through the Recovery Investment Fund.” This means more bureaucracy, cost and risk for taxpayers and unfair treatment for open shop contractors.
  3. As we seek to rebuild our economy from the COVID-19 recession, no one should be getting special favours from the government – at ICBA, our ask is simple: all contractors should have a fair shot at working on taxpayer-funded projects.
  4. There is no mention (or funding) for key projects such as the new Surrey hospital, a replacement for the Massey Tunnel or a new Taylor Bridge.
  5. The NDP platform calls for a compulsory trades system, restricting work on construction sites to registered tradespeople or those enrolled in a formal apprenticeship program. This was abandoned in BC nearly 20 years ago given the multiple pathways a worker takes to acquire the skills needed to become a journeyperson. What is too often forgotten is that learning a skill and mastering a craft happens on the job, working side-by-side with colleagues who have more experience and expertise. By far the largest sponsors of apprentices in BC are open shop contractors, who account for 82% of all apprentices in BC.
  6. On responsible resource development, Horgan promises “a comprehensive review of oil and natural gas royalty credits.” The energy sector has the potential to play a huge role in Canada’s economic recovery, but it’s on its knees and has been for many years – policies like this will not help restore confidence in the energy sector. Lengthy and shifting approval processes have only served to scare investors, turn away billions of dollars in opportunity, and destroy family-supporting jobs for hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

On the heels of last week’s BC Liberal promise to eliminate the PST in 2021, and cut it in half for 2022 and onward (until the COVID-19 recession ended), the NDP’s policy pronouncements raise big concerns for contractors and small business owners alike. Not only would a PST cut leave money in people’s pockets, but also it will help small businesses by reducing needless bureaucracy, lower employers’ taxes by saving on input costs, and it will attract desperately needed investment. That’s something Horgan’s high-profile $1,000 handout won’t do.

Needless to say, we hope the BC Liberal and Green platforms – due to be released next week – are far more supportive of open shop contractors and the families that work for them.

This piece, by ICBA’s Jordan Bateman, first appeared on The Orca on October 6, 2020.

If the BC Liberals, trailing in the polls, are to go down in this unnecessary, COVID-tinged election, it’s clear they will go down swinging.

On the heels of their huge promise to cut the PST and reboot a BC economy laid out by the COVID-19 recession, BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson made another giant promise, this time to the province’s largest cluster of swing ridings, Surrey: A BC Liberal government will hold a referendum to get Surrey citizens’ approval for a new police force.

Back in 2018, Doug McCallum reclaimed the mayor’s office he had lost to Dianne Watts 13 years earlier by riding a perfect vote split between two other rivals. His two promises: a new Surrey police force (ousting the local RCMP) and SkyTrain (not light rail).

Moving quickly, McCallum and his then 8 to 1 majority on council approved the new police force at their inaugural meeting. It’s been a grind ever since, as McCallum has studiously avoided any further public consultation on the idea – and lost three councillors from his slate. All along the way, John Horgan’s NDP Government has been busy rubber-stamping McCallum’s plans, while never requiring or suggesting any public dialogue.

Now rising costs, bumpy planning, and that lack of public input have the McCallum plan less popular than ever. All over Surrey, “Keep the RCMP” signs have popped up.

Well, the BC Liberals have seen enough. As CBC reports: “In a written statement on Sunday, the Liberals said ‘the NDP’s mismanagement of the Surrey policing issue has resulted in broken trust and lost confidence. The people of Surrey deserve better. From conversations with thousands of voters in this campaign, it’s clear that Surrey residents want a voice in the path forward.’ Thus, a referendum will be held, if the BC Liberals win.

It’s a big gambit, as it means war with McCallum, who will pull no punches in protecting what he considers his great political legacy.

But the response on the ground has been overwhelmingly positive. From a local newspaper reporter:

Frank Bucholtz, a retired newspaper editor, thinks the promise will shore up support for the BC Liberals in the three Surrey ridings they already hold, and could put four NDP seats into play: Surrey-Panorama (Jinny Sims), Surrey-Guildford (Garry Begg), Surrey-Newton (Harry Bains), and Surrey-Fleetwood (Jagrup Brar). If the BC Liberals can squeak out just two of those, it makes the NDP path to a majority far more difficult.

The NDP already overshot in Surrey, when they accused Brar’s BC Liberal opponent Garry Thind of voter fraud. Elections BC cleared Thind within three days.

Judging by Surrey NDP supporters’ vitriol on social media, this referendum promise has them panicked. The Venn diagram of overlapping NDP and Doug McCallum voters is practically microscopic, yet suddenly NDP partisans are out defending the old mayor as if he was the greatest man who ever lived, and the police planning process was flawless.

The more honest NDP Twitter users offer a different view:

One more important tweet. The BC Liberals’ promise suddenly has Surrey’s top political force engaged and interested. Yes, Dianne Watts is on board:

Just when it looked like the NDP was going to cruise to re-election, the race in Surrey got mighty blurry.

ELECTION 2020: Why This Election Matters to You

This election matters to all of us. We need a strong economy and smart leadership to make sure our community, our families, our jobs, our company, and our province all prosper.

Don’t sit this election out: take the time to learn the issues, make a choice, and VOTE (advance polls Oct. 15-21 or election day Oct. 24)!

 

Download the full PDF HERE.

This information was transmitted to members of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of British Columbia and thus does not constitute campaign period election advertising under the BC Election Act.

MERIT CANADA: Canadians Support Infrastructure Investment in Economic Recovery

Merit Canada, the national advocacy organization for open shop contractors, released the results of a poll showing that Canadians support infrastructure investment by government as a way to get out of the recession caused by COVID-19.

On a scale of 1-10 (10 most important), 1,023 Canadians were asked how important is it that each of the following play a significant role in any government COVID-19 recovery plans:

  1. Spending on infrastructure construction (6.7/10)
  2. Meaningful tax cuts for small business (7.0/10)
  3. Getting big infrastructure projects approved (6.4/10)

For the full slides, including demographics, click HERE.

ICBA (British Columbia) is a proud member of Merit Canada, which includes Merit Saskatchewan, Merit Contractors Association of Manitoba, Merit Ontario, Merit Contractors Association of Nova Scotia, and Merit New Brunswick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OP/ED: Chris Gardner in Praise of Bold Thinking (Cut the PST)

The following op/ed by ICBA President Chris Gardner first ran in The Orca on Oct. 1, 2020.

Finally, a bold idea for jumpstarting the BC economy.

For months, the business community has been calling for the provincial government to think big, be bold, and act fast in the effort to restart BC’s economy after the pandemic shutdown. Under John Horgan and the NDP, recovery has been agonizingly slow, and has fallen short of what needs to be done. BC’s unemployment rate is 10.7% — two full points higher than Quebec, and higher than Ontario, Saskatchewan and all but two other provinces.

Just before John Horgan broke his word to British Columbians and called this election last week, his government laid out a $1.5 billion economic recovery plan that was underwhelming and generally panned by most observers.

On Monday, we saw the first big idea of the 2020 BC election campaign come from Andrew Wilkinson and the BC Liberals. Wilkinson pledged to eliminate the 7% Provincial Sales Tax (PST) for an entire year, and then keep it at 3% until the economy recovers from the fallout of the pandemic.

This tax cut would be dynamic and help every British Columbian. A family with a household annual income of $90,000 would save $1,388 next year. A single person making $30,000 would save $460. Regardless of income level, all British Columbians would save money under this plan. What’s more, both left and right leaning economists have long criticized the PST for being a regressive tax that disproportionally hits lower-income people, meaning this cut will help the poor the most.

For business owners trying to pull themselves up off the mat, this tax cut would be incredibly helpful. First, consumers would have more money in their pockets to spend on local goods and services. Second, communities in eastern BC would be able to compete with Alberta, which doesn’t have a provincial sales tax. Paperwork and bureaucracy would also be reduced.

For construction companies, a PST cut will mean more money is available for investments in capital and training and hiring workers. Right now, PST is embedded into the cost of goods, supplies, equipment, and service, and passed on to the final customer.

Eliminating it for a year would be a kickstart for projects that might have been marginal at that 7% tax level. And we need every project and housing start possible to get BC’s economy moving again. Back in 2016, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimated that PST added at least $9,000 to a $400,000 housing project in BC. That amount has only increased in the four years since, and is far higher on more expensive homes.  Earlier this year, the Business Council of BC called for the PST to be cut in half—Wilkinson’s plan is even bolder.

Wilkinson’s PST cut is one of those rare policies that helps everyone—and it’s a key reason why we all need to pay attention in this election. BC needs the best plan to revitalize our economy, attract investment, and create jobs and opportunity for communities and families in every part of our province.