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No silver bullet for housing affordability in BC

Governments push housing costs higher

Metro Vancouver’s high housing costs remain a discouraging reality for many local British Columbians, and there’s been a huge amount
of discussion recently about how we can ease affordability pressures.

Per House

But first, we need to give up the hope for a silver bullet and put all the issues on the table. Then we need to focus on the ones we’re most able to do something about. And on the top of that list are the added costs that our governments tack onto the price of a home. Fees, red tape, regulatory complexity and unacceptable delays add unnecessary premiums to already expensive housing in Metro Vancouver.
Governments often claim to be deeply concerned about affordability, but study after study confirms they’re part of the problem. And what’s even more troubling is lack of transparency and restrictions on consumer choice. Governments are quick to trumpet the benefits of new regulations – even if they don’t always hold up to scrutiny – but rarely have much to say about costs.

View the BC Construction Monitor that addresses housing affordability in the province.

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Opinions remain divided over B.C. apprenticeship requirements

Journal of Commerce, by Peter Caulfield, August 14, 2015

apprenticeship in bc
B.C. construction industry organization heads are divided on the effectiveness of the provincial government’s new Apprentices on Public Projects policy, which came into effect July 1,2015.

The government initiative will require contractors working on public construction projects that contain at least a $15 million government investment to sponsor apprentices through the entire project cycle and report on their on-project use before they receive their final payment.

“I believe the government’s plan to require contractors to hire apprentices is unnecessary,” said Jack Davidson, president of the British Columbia Road Builders and HeavyConstruction Association.

“Labor market forces will dictate the amount and type of training contractors need to be involved in.”

He said the government should take a different approach.

“Government would do better focusing on helping individual industries develop industry-designed training that fits their specific needs, rather than trying to support training using only the apprenticeship model,” Davidson said.

Philip Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C., said the best thing the B.C. government can do to increase the number of trained construction workers is to make sure there’s plenty of work.

“The province should stick to doing its utmost to attract investment to B.C.,” he said. Read more

Opinion: National rebar tariff is a Buy America preference imposed on B.C.

Pile of rebar
BC is collateral damage due to CITT’s national tariff on imported rebar. ICBA will continue to fight for BC’s construction industry.

Canada is a trading nation that is the envy of many because of the wealth of our resources and the resourcefulness of our people. Every province is formed by diverse

and unique trading economies requiring diverse skilled people.

It’s our unyielding ability to import and export goods that help our provinces grow, our national economy thrive and our country compete in a global marketplace.

Pivotal to maintaining our competitiveness, the Canada Border and Services Agency and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal share responsibility for protecting our industries from unfairly traded imports. Part of their job is to investigate complaints from Canadian industries.

The CBSA and the CITT have a number of tools to safeguard and protect Canadian businesses. For example, when foreign-owned eastern Canadian steel mills complained to the CBSA of dumping of rebar from China, Korea and Turkey, the CBSA and the CITT justly initiated an investigation. It was concluded there was dumping and a national tariff on rebar was put in place.

In many cases, a national tariff on goods from other countries can be the best solution to protecting our competitiveness and protecting Canadian jobs. However, we must acknowledge and recognize Canada is a diverse nation that does not allow for a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to trade policies.

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Step backwards for labour relations in B.C.

 Simple reality: No open shop contractor, including members of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCAC) and the BC Construction Association (BCCA) would support special status for any contractor based on union affiliation, especially when bidding on taxpayer-funded projects.

Not only was it disappointing that BC Hydro signed an MOU with the building trades unions (BTU) that gives added weight to those bids that include BTU contractors for work on the Site C project, but it was surprising that the leaders of the PCAC and BCCA came out in support of the MOU. In doing so, these organizations have declared to their membership that they no longer support fair, open and transparent tendering. And, BC Hydro has effectively granted preferential treatment for a set of unions ahead of fair competition.

This is a step backwards for labour relations in B.C.

40 years ago, in order to bid on a public project, the NDP mandated that contractors needed to be affiliated with the BTU. The result was significant labour unrest, project delays and cost overruns, which were passed onto taxpayers.

For the benefit of every British Columbian, over the past four decades, the construction industry has turned its back on this closed shop labour approach. It has been replaced with a more efficient and more inclusive open shop model that is based on equal treatment for all contractors, regardless of how their employees choose to be represented in the workplace.

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BC Hydro needs inclusive model for Site C construction

If the goal is to jeopardize the Site C Clean Energy project, then the building trades unions deserve credit.

Site C is a province-building opportunity that is a key asset in an increasingly competitive global economy. It will produce firm power for more than a century; contribute $3.2 billion to B.C.’s GDP; generate approximately 10,000 direct jobs and an additional 23,000 indirect jobs. B.C. can’t afford self-interest groups standing in the way.

Not surprisingly, the building trades unions (BTU) are putting their self-interests ahead of British Columbians. And, they are putting their interests ahead of construction workers who for the past 30 years have worked together on numerous projects regardless of their labour affiliation.

Truth be told, the construction industry has been a model of labour peace and stability. In fact, the majority of British Columbia’s major infrastructure projects have been built without a hitch using an inclusive approach to labour. Projects like construction for the 2010 Olympic Games venues, the Port Mann Bridge, the Sea to Sky Highway, the Canada Line and the Gibraltar and Copper Mountain mines were delivered on time, on budget and everyone worked side by side regardless of whether or not the worker had a union card. Read more

The Government of British Columbia and the ICBA are united in their commitment to stand up for B.C. and support competitiveness.

The Government of British Columbia and the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) are united in their commitment to stand up for B.C. and support competitiveness.

Together with the ICBA, the B.C. government will be requesting a Public Interest Inquiry regarding the decision earlier this year to increase tariffs on rebar imports.

In June 2014, a trade dispute triggered by the rebar industry outside of B.C. initiated an investigation of dumping and subsidizing of rebar imported into Canada from China, South Korea and Turkey. British Columbia’s construction industry relies on imports from China and South Korea, as shipping by land is costly and pointedly, Canadian rebar suppliers have been supplying B.C. in very limited amounts.

The Province supports the ICBA in its efforts to receive a Special Regional Exclusion from the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) because shipping costs across land far exceed those by water. ICBA has determined that even with the duties added, it will not be cost-effective for the industry to ship rebar across land when ocean access is cheaper.

According to the ICBA, the proposed import duties could raise construction costs significantly (rebar represents 6% to 10% of average construction costs). For example:

  •  It could add $10,000 to the price of a new two-bedroom condo in Vancouver.
  • A project such as the George Massey Tunnel Replacement (bridge and corresponding overpass work) could result in increased costs to taxpayers by as much as $20 million to $32 million.

A request for the CITT to undertake a Public Interest Inquiry (PII) must be made by Feb. 23, 2015. A PII is warranted when there is a public interest that merits the reduction or elimination of duties, such as increased public infrastructure construction costs and/or impacts on investment decisions. If an inquiry is successful, it could result in the reduction or elimination of duties for imports into B.C.

The effect of the ruling by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) is that effective Jan. 9, 2015, rebar duties (up to 41%) will be applied to imports from China, South Korea and Turkey.


Minister of International Trade Teresa Wat –  “The decision fails to understand the realities on the ground in British Columbia. If allowed to stand, it will increase the costs of construction. We have reviewed our options and together with the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, we are committed to stand up for B.C. and support competitiveness.

The B.C. government and ICBA will be requesting a Public Interest Inquiry regarding the decision earlier this year to increase tariffs on rebar imports.

This issue should be a concern to every British Columbian, as these costs get passed along to consumers and taxpayers. It not only affects commercial construction and public infrastructure projects but our competitiveness as a jurisdiction for investment for major industry projects.”

Philip Hochstein, president, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C. – “Unfortunately, B.C.’s unique regional characteristics were not recognized. In a country as big as Canada, a one-size-fits-all approach does not make sense. With this new tariff, our province has become collateral damage with no offsetting gains for the rest of Canada. With tariffs that could be as high as 41%, this hurts our competitiveness.”

Quick Facts:

The Canadian International Trade Tribunal found future injury only. This means:

  •  Reasons for finding were released Jan. 26, 2015.
  • Duties became applicable as of Jan. 9, 2015.
  • Provisional duties applied prior to Jan. 9, 2015, will be refunded.
  •  A request for the CITT to undertake a Public Interest Inquiry (PII) must be made by Feb. 23, 2015.

Learn More:

The tribunal’s decision and reasons for finding can be found here:<>

Media Contacts:

Media Relations

Ministry of International Trade

Government Communications and Public Engagement

250 387-9092

Catherine Loiacono

Director of Communications

Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C.

604 561-6630



B.C. Government’s Approval of Site C shows foresight

B.C.’s construction industry commends the Government of B.C.’s foresight with the decision to approve BC Hydro’s Site C Clean Energy Project.

“Site C is the right project at the right time for the future of British Columbia and our economy,” said Philip Hochstein, president, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C. “This is the kind of project that will be a legacy for generations. By moving forward with Site C, BC Hydro can ensure our province has enough clean, renewable energy to power our province for decades to come.”

Hochstein also said that both environmental and governmental approval sends a strong signal that British Columbia is open for business and can and will approve major infrastructure projects.

“Site C helps give this province a competitive advantage in attracting investment that will strengthen our communities, enabling us to build more hospitals and highways, and fund more doctors and nurses,” Hochstein said. “The Government of B.C has balanced responsible economic development with fiscal prudence and sound businesses practices to get to yes on this project.”

He noted the economic benefits the project will generate, including thousands of jobs during construction.

BC Hydro estimates the project will generate approximately 10,000 direct jobs and an additional 23,000 indirect jobs, and contribute $3.2 billion to B.C.’s GDP. In addition, Site C will generate firm power for more than a century.

Cost of new homes will increase because of new national rebar tariff

B.C. homeowners can expect the cost of buying a new home to increase because of a new national tariff on rebar.

“B.C.’s housing market is already unaffordable for many British Columbians,” said Philip Hochstein, president, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C. “This new tariff will make an already difficult situation worse for young families.”

Rebar currently accounts for six per cent of the total cost of constructing a high-rise residential tower. The newly imposed tariff of 25 per cent could increase to as much as 58 per cent should the Canadian International Trade Tribunal decide in favour of foreign-owned eastern steel mills. Read more

B.C. is collateral damage with new national rebar tariff

British Columbia’s construction industry is feeling the effects of the newly imposed national tariff on rebar (reinforcing steel). This preliminary national tariff means construction costs in B.C. will increase unnecessarily without offsetting the protection of jobs in Canada.

“Unfortunately, our province has become collateral damage,” said Philip Hochstein, president, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C. “This tariff means construction projects of all sizes in B.C. are affected. It will increase the cost of building Site C and LNG facilities as well as increase the cost of buying a new home.”

The national tariff placed on rebar was introduced by the federal government as a result of a complaint by foreign-owned eastern Canadian steel mills who do not service British Columbia’s market. Currently, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) is investigating the dumping of rebar from China, Turkey and Korea. The CITT will be holding a hearing in Ottawa on December 15 and is expected to make a final determination in January 2015. Read more