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OP/ED: Beware the Government’s Back Room Deal with Big Unions

By Chris Gardner, President, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association. (This op-ed first ran in The Vancouver Sun on January 25, 2019.)

Hold on to your wallets, modern-day snake oil salesmen are in Vancouver this week to help the NDP government push its miracle cure for construction, Project Labour Agreements (PLAs).

But PLAs only do three things – cost taxpayers more money, rip away workers’ right to choose how they organize themselves, and discriminate against the 85 per cent of construction workers who are not part of these chosen unions.

Last year, the NDP Government announced it would create a new crown corporation to employ all construction workers building a new Pattullo Bridge and expanding Highway 1 east of Kamloops. These workers will be forced by government to join one of the 19 building trades unions that have a monopoly over these projects. Gone will be workers’ existing pay, bonus and profit-sharing plans and their existing union or employee association affiliations and, in their place, they will be forced into new agreements and a requirement to pay union dues, fees and pension contributions, a good portion of which workers will never recoup.

This sweetheart deal with the unions who have given the NDP millions in campaign donations was cynically branded by government spin doctors as “Community Benefit Agreements.” But the only benefits that flow will be those flowing into the coffers of these favoured unions.

Why is the government forcing thousands of construction workers to be hired by a new government corporation when these workers are already employed by private companies? To what end is the government forcing all of these workers to join one of just 19 selected unions?

Will more workers be trained? No. Will more young people, women or Indigenous workers be hired on these projects? No. Will workers be paid more? No.

On Friday, January 25, two NDP cabinet ministers, a host of Big Labour organizers and a parade of American “experts” will be at a Vancouver five-star hotel, trying to justify this flawed model to British Columbians.

A speaker from Seattle’s Puget Sound Transit has been hired to gush over these unfair hiring practices. What he won’t admit is that Sound Transit’s own evaluation of this model includes a litany of complaints from sub-contractors: “The majority of subcontractors… who have gone through this process have said they would not do it again.” Added one sub-contractor: “[This was] absolutely a miserable experience.”

B.C. companies know this feeling all-too-well. In the 1990s, the NDP Government of the day forced a PLA on the Island Highway project. It was confusing and ran wildly over budget.

In one of the busiest construction markets in decades, the NDP government has inexplicably decided to exclude 85 per cent of the construction workforce. Fewer companies will bid on this work and this lack of competition will drive up prices and limit innovation and limit worker choice. None of this makes any sense.

Even the NDP Government admits their model will cost taxpayers more.  Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said it would add at least $100 million on the Pattullo Bridge project.  She is grossly underestimating the costs: the American experience shows PLAs drive up construction costs by 12 to 18 per cent, say researchers at Suffolk University.

An 18 per cent overrun on the Pattullo Bridge means taxpayers would spend a quarter of a billion dollars unnecessarily. That $250 million would make a nice down payment on a replacement for the 60-year-old Massey Tunnel, or a new hospital for Surrey – but instead, it will vanish into thin air.

Another PLA salesman marching into town for the swanky conference works for the Los Angeles Unified School District. No doubt he’ll fail to mention the massive cost overruns that resulted in a high school that cost about $750 million (CDN) to build – the most expensive public school in U.S. history.

The snake oil salesmen will pack up their PLA wares and go home after this union conference. Let’s make sure they take the added construction costs and stripping of workers’ rights home with them.

TRAINING THURSDAY: Rigging Fundamentals (Fulford Certification)

We have a brand-new course!

Do you rig loads for lifting by cranes or other hoisting equipment? We have the perfect course for you.

The first session of our new Rigging Fundamentals course is in Fort St John on February 8. We want to see you there.

Here are the course objectives:

  • Identify safe rigging practices
  • Conduct prior to use inspections
  • Understand basic rigging principles
  • Load weight determination
  • Turning Loads

The topics to be covered are:

  • Rigging terminology
  • Determining load weight
  • Locating the load’s centre of gravity (COG)
  • Communicating with hand signals
  • Knot tying
  • Inspecting slings and hardware
  • Using rigging working load limit charts
  • Application of common hitches
  • Basic lift planning
  • Rigging and signaling lifts

Plus, our instructor is Fulford certified, so you will be trained to the highest standards. And, you’ll receive 16 Group A CPD Points from BC Housing!

We are also bringing this course to Kamloops February 27 and 28, and Prince George on March 6 and 7. Register for this or any of our upcoming courses at

ICBA NEWS: ICBA Up for 7 Reed Awards, Including Trade Association of the Year and Best Web Video (Overall)

JUST IN: ICBA is a finalist for 7 prestigious U.S. Reed Awards, which honour excellence in political campaigning, campaign management, advocacy, political consulting and political design.

In 2018, ICBA won 3 Reeds for our Site C/pink slip campaign (Best Canadian Online Ad Campaign, Best Canadian Use of Outdoor Advertising, and Best International Use of Outdoor Advertising). This year, we are finalists for 7 awards – including two of the biggest ones they hand out:

  • Trade Association of the Year (a category which includes U.S. and international associations)
  • Best Web Video – Overall (a category which includes U.S. and international campaigns, including all the US mid-terms), for our Big Gas ad

Being a finalist for Trade Association of the Year is an especially significant compliment to all of us at ICBA/ICBA Benefits/CIBP. What we have at ICBA is very special and it’s exciting to be recognized for it.

Getting designated as a Reed Award Finalist is extraordinarily difficult,” said Shane D’Aprile, Co-Publisher, Campaigns & Elections. “Thousands of entries compete, but very few make the cut. That’s how it should be in the most exacting award the campaign industry has. So when you encounter a Reed Award Finalist you know one thing for certain, they produce work that’s head and shoulders above the competition.”

We are also finalists for:

  • Best International Web Video (a category which includes all international campaigns outside the U.S.) for our Big Gas ad
  • Best Canadian Web Video for our Big Gas ad
  • Best International Outdoor Advertising (a category which includes all international campaigns outside the U.S.) for our Big Gas movie poster
  • Best Canadian Outdoor Advertising for our Big Gas movie poster
  • Best Canadian Website for our Stop Prop Rep pre-campaign website

The awards are handed out Feb. 21 in Austin, Texas. We will be crossing our fingers for some Big Gas Trophies!

TRAINING THURSDAY: Time Management Workshop

How’s your time management? Are you a procrastinator? Don’t put it off for another day; register now for our Time Management Workshop on January 28 in Burnaby or February 20 in Victoria!

You will gain a new mindset, skillset and toolset that will optimize your personal productivity, and learn how to produce greater results in less time. Improved time management skills mean increased productivity, met deadlines, and a positive impact on all aspects of your business.

Here are some of the benefits of attending:

  • Participants learn how to gain and keep control of competing priorities, concurrent projects and critical deadlines.
  • Participants will learn powerful lessons about themselves, enhancing self-understanding so they can leverage their personal strengths and develop strategies to minimize the impact of their weakness.
  • The focus on practicality means that people walk out with ideas and techniques they can apply the next day.

Plus, you’ll earn 1 Gold Seal Credit and 7 Group A CPD Points from BC Housing! Register now for this or any of our other upcoming courses at

TRAINING THURSDAY: Construction, Excavation and Demolition Involving Hazardous Building Materials

Do you have plans for breakfast on January 10? Check out our Construction, Excavation and Demolition Involving Hazardous Building Materials breakfast session in Burnaby. 

The process of sampling building materials to test for hazardous substances may seem straight forward, but it is often done incorrectly producing misleading or false results.

This breakfast session will provide you with an opportunity to learn about the new changes to the OHS Regulation Section 20.112, which requires additional information during hazardous materials surveys. You’ll also learn how these changes can impact your scope of work under renovation and demolition projects involving these materials.

In addition, this session will also provide a refresher on regulatory sampling requirements for submitting suspect bulk materials to a laboratory for determination of asbestos content, and a limited discussion of lead and silica bulk sampling protocols. This session will provide you with the fundamentals of interpreting hazardous material surveys and their associated analytical reports.

Plus, you’ll earn 2 Group A CPD Points from BC Housing! You can learn more about this breakfast session and register at

And while you’re there, subscribe to our biweekly training newsletter at for the latest updates on courses in your area.

NEWS RELEASE: ICBA Vindicated by Voters’ Rejection of Prop Rep

Today’s announcement by Elections BC that proportional representation has been rejected by voters is good news for British Columbia, according to the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA).

“The entire process was rigged by the NDP Government in favour of proportional representation,” said Chris Gardner, ICBA President. “Gone was any real consultation with British Columbians or specific information on how these systems would work. Instead, the government developed a confusing question, rushed the process, lowered the threshold for approval, cut off any meaningful debate, and used the full weight of the government to get to the answer they wanted. It was rigged, unfair and a betrayal of our strong democratic values. The good news is that voters saw through the deception and the unfairness and ultimately rejected a questionable set of alternatives put before them by the government.”

In 2005’s electoral reform referendum, 61% of eligible voters turned out. In 2009, turnout was 55%. In ICBA’s view, the fact that barely 41% of B.C. voters made their choice known in this referendum reinforced that the government had no mandate to fundamentally change our democracy.

“No one knew how any of this was going to work,” said Gardner. “Premier Horgan and Attorney General Eby accomplished what they set out to do: suppress voter participation and rig the process to favour the system they wanted. What we were witnessing was the hijacking of our voting system by an activist government committed to radically changing our democracy. Fortunately, voters saw through all of this and voted to retain the system that for generations has fairly, and simply, delivered stable governments in B.C.” Read more