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OP/ED: Truth in Training vs UnionSpeak

This op-ed by ICBA President Chris Gardner first appeared in The Province newspaper on Wednesday, May 29, 2019.

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Decades after Mark Twain popularized this remark, the building trades unions in B.C. have breathed new life into his observation.

Only 15 per cent of B.C.’s 250,000 construction workers are affiliated with the traditional building trades unions. While the rest of the men and women in construction have moved onto more flexible models that give workers greater choice, better career options and participation in profit-sharing and bonus plans, the building trades cling to old-school hiring halls, rewarding seniority over skill, rigid rules and antiquated business practices that hurt workers and are financially unsustainable.

Desperate to turn back the clock and to justify to their members – and government – that they remain relevant, the building trades have adopted apprenticeship training as their last line of defence. Unfortunately for them, neither the facts nor the statistics back up their sanctimony.

Learning a skill and mastering a craft happens on the job working side-by-side with colleagues who have the experience and expertise to pass on to those following in their footsteps. What is learned in the classroom is enhanced and refined on the job.

It should then come as no surprise that the building trades train only 15% of the construction workforce – that’s the percentage of the workforce they represent. The remaining 85% of construction workers who are members of employee associations and progressive unions or who work for construction companies not affiliated with the building trades unions are trained in classrooms by instructors and on the job by their colleagues, just like their building trades counterparts.

In fact, statistics obtained from the Industry Training Authority (ITA) through a Freedom of Information request shows that 23,172 of the province’s 28,432 registered construction apprentices are not affiliated with any union. That means 81.5 per cent of construction apprentices are not sponsored by the building trades or any other union, including progressive ones like CLAC.

The vast majority of apprenticeship sponsorship in this province is done by Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) and open shop companies – not the traditional building trades unions. It’s not even close.

That ICBA sponsors more construction apprentices than any other entity in B.C. is an ever-present uncomfortable reality for unions who collect millions in “training” funds from their workers.

In a recent op-ed, building trades union president Tom Sigurdson tried to downplay ICBA’s number of apprentices by cherry-picking a stat claiming that “there are more than 1,300 registered apprentices in just two of our union trade schools alone: the Electrical Joint Training Committee and the Piping Industry College.”

But the ITA’s numbers show that ICBA and non-union companies have thousands more apprentices in those trades. Combined, ICBA and non-union companies sponsor 10,329 construction and industrial electrician, plumber, sprinkler fitter, steamfitter-pipefitter and welder apprentices. The unions train 2,073. That’s a margin of 5 to 1 for the open shop.

And we’re not certain those union-trained apprentices are even staying in B.C. The Piping Industry College is advertising a program to certify Canadian union plumbers to work (and move to) New Zealand. That’s right: the same unions who claim B.C. has a huge worker shortage and constantly fear-monger about foreign workers taking jobs from British Columbians is shipping B.C.-trained plumbers halfway around the world. And it’s not just plumbers – the first group of B.C. union electricians started working in New Zealand in March.

All of this makes the NDP Government’s move to building trades union-only monopolies on major taxpayer-funded projects so offensive. By forcing all workers on the Pattullo Bridge to join a building trades union and to become an employee of a new crown corporation is a sop to the building trades unions who happened to have donated $2.5 million to the NDP over the past few elections.

Money talks, folks. This gift to the friends and insiders of the NDP Government is not about training or hiring more young people or providing more opportunities for women – indeed, the statistics prove non-union apprenticeship is thriving. It’s money at the heart of one of the most offensive backroom deals to come out of Victoria in decades.

IN THE NEWS: ICBA Celebrates Massey’s 60th Birthday By Calling For New Crossing

Yesterday, ICBA hosted an impromptu 60th birthday party for the Massey Tunnel, We wanted to get the media’s and politicians’ attention on Massey and the critical need to replace it. Judging from the coverage, it worked:

  • Vancouver Sun: “The party has long been over for the thousands of drivers who use the Massey every day, and who know just how small, out-of-date and unsafe the tunnel has become,” said Chris Gardner, president of [ICBA]. “A new crossing was well under way until the NDP government came to power in 2017 and killed it for no good reason. They’re still dragging their heels on a replacement years later, and drivers are still asking for a new crossing.”
  • Delta Optimist: “There were always five options to replace the George Massey Tunnel and always the best option was a bridge right over top of Highway 99 with the alignment that we have today. So study after study, and now they’re thinking possibly 2030, even if they got through the studies and were to get busy building a replacement for this tunnel…how many traffic tie-ups are there going to be between now and 2030?” he asked.
  • CBC News: “[The tunnel] is now woefully undersized and desperately in need of a replacement, but the NDP government keeps dragging its heels on it,” said Jordan Bateman, adding that the tunnel would be extremely dangerous in the event of an earthquake.
  • Global TV: “[The tunnel] is woefully out of date, it is falling apart, it is not seismically safe and it is in desperate need of replacement,” said Independent Contractors Business Association (ICBA) spokesperson Jordan Bateman. “It has now been two years, we are no closer to a new Massey crossing.”
  • Fairchild TV (Chinese language)

NEWS RELEASE: Commuters Celebrate Massey’s 60th Birthday with Extra 60 Minutes in Traffic

DELTA—Sixty years ago, on May 23, 1959, the Massey Tunnel opened to traffic. Today, thousands of commuters celebrated Massey’s 60th birthday by waiting up to 60 extra minutes in its traffic.

To mark the Massey’s birthday and call on the NDP Government to expedite a replacement crossing, Delta South MLA Ian Paton and Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal joined Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) vice-president Jordan Bateman at an impromptu 60th birthday party near the tunnel today.

Bateman, Paton and Johal have all been very vocal about the need for a replacement for the Massey due to safety and congestion issues. A planned new bridge was stopped by the NDP Government in 2017, delaying any possible replacement for years.

“The party has long been over for the thousands of drivers who use the Massey every day, and who know just how small, out-of-date and unsafe the tunnel has become,” said Bateman. “A new crossing was well under way until the NDP government came to power in 2017 and killed it for no good reason. They’re still dragging their heels on a replacement years later, and drivers are still asking for a new crossing.”

“This event is anything but celebratory. Local commuters and visiting travellers are sick and tired of sitting in B.C.’s worst bottleneck. They want action today— not a decade from now,” said Paton. “John Horgan and the NDP continue to stall this important replacement project while motorists and our economy suffer. It’s completely unacceptable.”

“At 60 years old, this tunnel is aging and seismically unsafe. It needs to be replaced with a safer and more efficient alternative,” said Johal. “John Horgan and the NDP have consensus from local mayors on how to proceed, yet they continue to sit on their hands. They are failing to provide relief to drivers and business owners.”

ICBA has launched a website,, where drivers can send an email to Horgan asking that a new Massey crossing be expedited.


TRAINING ‘THRONESDAY’: Infection Control During Construction, Renovation and Maintenance of Healthcare Facilities

Construction, renovation, and maintenance of health care facilities bring specific risks associated with potentially fatal infection and illness. If your jobsite is a health care facility, we want to help you with our two upcoming workshops. The first is Fundamentals of Infection Control During Construction, Renovation and Maintenance of Healthcare Facilities, on June 25 in Burnaby.

Preventing and controlling infection while these activities take place requires the implementation and support of preventive measures intended to protect patients, staff, and visitors from potential harm. Focusing on the application of the CSA Z317.13 standard, participants will learn how to address necessary measures and help control infection risk in health care facilities. And you’ll learn 1 Gold Seal Credit!

The second course, Effective Implementation and Practical Applications of Infection Control During Construction, Renovation and Maintenance of Healthcare Facilities, takes place on June 26 and builds on the foundation established by the Fundamentals course the day before. Participants will gain insight into the latest developments and requirements of this critical field and acquire practical knowledge on how to apply the necessary measures to help control risk.

You’ll also earn 1 Gold Seal Credit for this session.

For more information and to register, visit While you’re there, subscribe to our biweekly training newsletter at

NEWS RELEASE: Union Monopoly Costs Taxpayers Millions – And It’s Only The First Contract

VANCOUVER – The NDP Government’s first construction contract under their union monopoly deal will cost taxpayers $22.5 million more than expected, and is another reason why the NDP should kill its so-called Community Benefit Agreement scheme, says the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA).

On Thursday, the NDP Government announced that the Illecillewaet project near Revelstoke, which will widen Highway 1 to four lanes for two kilometres, had been awarded to a building trades union-organized company. The contract came in at $85.2 million – $22.3 million more than originally budgeted, and work hasn’t even started yet.

“The NDP’s sweetheart deal with their building trade union allies has driven the cost of this project up by a third, and they’re not even in the ground yet,” said Chris Gardner, ICBA President. “It’s no surprise – there were far fewer bidders than expected as many roadbuilding companies are avoiding the NDP’s forced labour model. It’s a backroom deal of the worst kind.”

Under John Horgan’s new law, within 30 days of employment on the job site, any non-union worker or a worker from another affiliation is forced to join an NDP-approved union for work specific to the project. The new policy gives the building trades unions a monopoly on several government-funded construction projects, reducing efficiencies and driving up costs to taxpayers.

“By giftwrapping a monopoly to their union allies, the NDP government is overspending on labour on this, on other Highway 1 work, the Pattullo Bridge replacement, and the Broadway subway,” said Gardner. “This means there will be less money for other construction priorities around B.C.”

ICBA, other construction and business associations, progressive unions, and open-shop companies have joined forces in a court challenge of the NDP’s CBA scheme.

“The NDP should not be allowed to cut out 85 per cent of construction workers in this province, simply because they do not belong to a union that gave them campaign donations,” said Gardner. “This building trades union-only monopoly on major taxpayer-funded projects is offensive. Forcing workers to join a building trades union and to become an employee of a new crown corporation is a sop to the unions who happened to have donated $2.5 million to the NDP over the past few elections. It should be stopped immediately.”

TRAINING THRONESDAY: Social Media for your Business

These days, social media for business is as much of a requirement as bilingualism in Parliament. Not sure how to take advantage of it? Register now for our Social Media for your Business workshop June 4 in Langley!

Social media is a powerful (and not to mention FREE) tool that can be used to promote to, engage with, and learn about your customers. Here are the key takeaways from this half-day session:

  • Picking the RIGHT platforms for your brand
  • How to optimize these platforms
  • Measuring the ROI of social media efforts
  • Tips and tricks for creating a calendar full of great content
  • How to manage your time spent on social media

Plus, you’ll earn 2.5 Group B CPD Points from BC Housing! Register at

ICBA/PROCORE EVENT: Construction Tech Breakfast, June 4, Vancouver

The construction industry moves fast. Technological challenges and advances come quickly, and businesses need to be ready.

That’s why ICBA has joined with Procore to present an ICBA event, “Construction Technology: Reshaping the Industry”, a complimentary breakfast at Vancouver’s Terminal City Club on June 4th.

Four very accomplished leaders from our industry will share their perspectives on how we can adapt and navigate our organizations through unprecedented change coming to our industry.

We expect a turnout of more than 250 attendees from our industry so it should be a great opportunity to network as well. We would be delighted if you could join so please register at the link provided below. If you would like to bring a colleague or two please register them as well or forward them this post.

How to Register: 

Program Details:

  • Tuesday June 4, 2019
  • 7:00 – 7:45 AM – Check in / Networking / Breakfast.
  • 7:45 – 9:30 AM – Panel & Q&A. Please note there will be no individual presentations (no PowerPoint), instead it will be a panel event throughout.
  • 9:30 – 10:00 AM – Networking / Finish.


  • Terminal City Club – 837 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6C 1B6
  • Dress Code – Business casual
  • Cost – Complimentary – You are our guest

Panel Moderator Extraordinaire

Accomplished Panelists 

It’s a great panel representing a cross section of the industry so looking forward to you joining us so we can eat, drink, and learn about how to make the hard work of construction easier.

TRAINING THRONESDAY: Electrical Estimating Course 1 (Basic)

Are you confident in your estimating skills for today’s competitive market? Our Electrical Estimating course in Langley May 15-16 and in Burnaby September 19-20 is here to help!

Our two-day, hands-on course will take you right from the start of an estimate to the final bid price. Here’s some of what’s covered:

  • Role of an Estimator
  • Setting up to Estimate
  • Methods of Estimating
  • Estimating Tools and Forms
  • Labor Manual and Use
  • Pricing
  • Review Drawings and Specifications
  • Organization of Estimate
  • Measuring and Counting
  • Use of Forms
  • Reviewing of Addendums Listing of Material
  • Pricing, Labour Units and Extension

And much more! Check out the full course listing and register for either session at Plus you’ll earn 2 Gold Seal Credits and 28 Group A CPD Points from BC Housing!

We’re also offering an advanced session on June 12 and 13 in Langley, and October 24 and 25 in Burnaby. Subscribe to our training newsletter at for the latest updates.