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NEWS RELEASE: ICBA Files for Appeal on Prop Rep Injunction Ruling

VANCOUVER – The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) and Canada West Construction Union yesterday filed leave to appeal a BC Supreme Court decision against an injunction to pause the proportional representation referendum process.

On August 28th, Justice Miriam Gropper turned down ICBA’s request for an injunction to pause the referendum process until the legality of the process could be confirmed in court.

The NDP Government has been dragging its heels on defending its referendum process, taking over two months to file a response to ICBA’s challenge. “The NDP Government talks a lot about democracy and having a fair debate, but they have shown no willingness to respond in a reasonable fashion – it’s their rules, it’s their process and it’s their referendum – they need to show up. We prepared our challenge within a week, and they needed more than two months,” said Chris Gardner, president of ICBA.

ICBA first filed its concerns with the process in early July, as soon as Attorney General David Eby released the rules. “As we have said from the start, the referendum question is confusing, the process was rushed, and there was little consultation,” said Gardner. “Given that the NDP government needs so much time to defend its own law and regulations, we think the only fair and reasonable course is for the referendum to be postponed.”

ICBA’s original case against the NDP government continues on and ICBA is hopeful that the government will agree to a court date in the fall. But until then, ICBA is seeking an injunction because the government is attempting to “run out the clock” and leave the courts with little practical remedy should the ICBA prevail in court, because the referendum will already be over.

“We know the NDP Government would rather the whole proportional representation referendum proceed with little scrutiny or debate, but we believe that British Columbians deserve better than this and our democracy deserves better than this,” said Gardner. “If the NDP wants to hold a referendum, then its incumbent upon them to be fair – why not take the same approach as the former government in 2005 and 2009?”

“Changing how we elect our government requires a fair and open process with a clear question and a timeline that will allow for a robust debate. It neither fair nor democratic for the NDP Government to effectively rig the question and the process to provoke the result it wants.”

The ICBA is arguing in court that the referendum question and process is fundamentally flawed:

  • It is not consistent with the NDP Government’s own Referendum Act, which calls for “a clear statement of the majority of voters on whether or not to implement a well-defined and comprehensible new voting system”;
  • A binding referendum must be supported “by a clear majority on a clear question”;
  • It is inconsistent with sections 2(b) and 3 of the Charter, “which give British Columbians the right to meaningfully participate in a fair and comprehensible referendum process” in relation to fundamental changes to the electoral system;
  • It is inconsistent with sections 2(b) and 2(d) of the Charter, which require that “British Columbians be able to fully express themselves and debate fundamental changes to the design of the democratic system”; and,
  • The regulations unlawfully restrict freedom of expression on matters of public interest.

For the full text of ICBA’s original application for an injunction, click HERE. To read the original petition, click HERE.

Tales of Prop Rep Horror #7: Rise of the Dictators

In the period between World War I and World War II, as people grappled with economic uncertainty, political divisions, and growing populism, 15 European democracies fell into dictatorships: Hungary, Italy, Bulgaria, Spain, Albania, Poland, Portugal, Yugoslavia, Lithuania, Romania, Germany, Austria, Estonia, Latvia and Greece.

These dictators came from all over the political spectrum but they used the same tool to rise to power: proportional representation. As pointed out in The Toronto Star: “No democracy that used first-past-the-post fell to dictatorship during the period.”

These extremists used the flaws of the prop rep system – too many parties, too little leadership – to pressure and eventually overtake mainstream political parties. And given today’s political environment of economic uncertainty, political divisions, and growing populism, there’s nothing to say it couldn’t happen again.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it!

Yet another reason to Stop Prop Rep! www.icba.ca/stopproprep

Pass this post on to your friends and family – David Eby’s draconian, anti-free speech rules won’t allow us to advertise it, but individuals can spread it as much as they like. Let’s make sure every British Columbian sees it. 

And stay tuned for more “Tales of Prop Rep Horror”…

Tales of Prop Rep Horror #6 – “Indonesian Indecency”
Tales of Prop Rep Horror #5 – “Beware the Greeks!”
Tales of Prop Rep Horror #4 – “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! NO! NO! NO!”
Tales of Prop Rep Horror #3 – “From Russia With Blood”
Tales of Prop Rep Horror #2 – “The Pain in Spain”
Tales of Prop Rep Horror #1 – “The Puzzle of Brussels”

TRAINING THURSDAY: Cannabis in the Workplace

There are new and significant changes coming regarding the legal status of cannabis, and we want to make sure you know how to handle them! We are pleased to bring a new breakfast session, Cannabis in the Workplace, to Burnaby on September 25.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this informative two-hour session:

  • Learn more about the federal “Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations”.
  • Understand that a “prescription” for cannabis does not give an employee the absolute right to use it in the workplace.
  • Understand your rights when it comes to those in Safety-Sensitive positions.
  • Discuss employee and employer obligations with regard to the use of cannabis.
  • Recognize the rights, responsibilities and risks for both employers and employees to avoid unnecessary litigation.
  • Identify the various ways the use of cannabis impacts the employer-employee relationship, and what you can do about it.
  • Identify what employers should be doing now to prepare for the pending legalization by reviewing their workplace drug and alcohol policies.

We want to help you meet some of the challenges that you’ll face in the coming months, and answer your questions around the use of cannabis in the workplace. Register now at www.icba.ca/courses!

SUBMISSION: ICBA Pushes Back Against Ottawa’s Plans For Steel Tariffs

The following was submitted by ICBA to the federal government, regarding our concerns over B.C.’s steel supply.

By way of background, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) has been the leading voice of British Columbia’s construction industry for 43 years, representing more than 2,300 members and clients who collectively employ over 50,000 people. ICBA advocates for its members in support of a vibrant construction industry, responsible resource development, and a growing economy for the benefit of all British Columbians.

Together with other national and provincial industry associations, ICBA is writing to express our concern about the potential for “safeguard measures” which would further limit steel imports through tariffs or quotas. We are very concerned that any additional measures to restrict supply, and thereby increase costs, would have profoundly detrimental impacts on the Western Canadian construction industry generally, and British Columbia in particular.

The government’s examination of “safeguard measures”, while somewhat understandable in the context of the current trade dispute with the United States, comes on the heels of a 25 per cent tariff imposed on imports of US steel earlier this summer and previous measures imposed on steel imports from China, Korea, Japan and Hong Kong in 2015. As a result, construction service providers have been on the receiving-end of substantial cost escalations, which, in the final incidence, must be passed onto consumers or absorbed by firms through layoffs or cuts elsewhere in their businesses. It also occurs amidst two long-standing fundamental “supply-side” constraints facing BC-based construction firms sourcing steel and related products:

  • There is no steel mill in British Columbia. In fact, the closest source of steel for BC’s construction industry is a firm in Edmonton, AB which is able to supply only 10 per cent of BC’s demand. It is not in a position to fulfill any further BC requirements; and,
  • Transportation and logistics challenges militate against meeting BC’s demand from Eastern Canadian steel mills. The hard reality is that BC must continue to source its steel from the US, Turkey, and Asian markets. Steel sourced from Eastern Canada typically costs four times more to ship via rail versus sourcing from external markets by ocean freighter.

As your government considers “safeguard measures” in the form of tariffs or quotas, it is important to highlight some key risks inherent in further restricting supply and increasing costs for steel in British Columbia and Western Canada:

  • British Columbia – especially Metro Vancouver, Southern Vancouver Island, and the Central Okanagan – continues to experience robust construction activity. Any further increases to tariffs or restrictions on supply through quotas will drive up costs in areas of our province already facing affordability challenges, especially in housing markets;
  • BC’s position in steel re-manufacturing may already be at a competitive “tipping point” in some cases. The concurrent effects of the high land prices, high marginal effective tax rates (METR) relative to other jurisdictions, increased taxes and regulation, and severe competitive challenges brought about by massive tax reductions south of the border under the US Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in late 2017 have compounded an already challenging competitive environment for many firms. Anecdotally, increasingly there are project cancellations (especially in the housing market) and consideration being given by some firms to re-locating operations to Washington and other Western US states;
  • Shortages are already apparent since your government imposed retaliatory tariffs in July, and further measures will impair construction activity planned for Spring 2019, raising concerns about adequacy of supply for projects underway (e.g. Site C Dam) along with those commencing (e.g. Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion), among many others.
  • The federal government plans to undertake significant federal-provincial, shared-cost infrastructure over the next few years including, for example, the Broadway Skytrain extension and Surrey light rail rapid transit projects (among others). “Safeguard measures” for Eastern Canadian steel producers would, therefore, present federal and provincial taxpayers with higher construction material costs; and,
  • Apart from the general effects on a number of resource projects, BC (and Canada) are on the cusp of two potential positive final investment decisions for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plants on the West Coast. These projects will transform BC and Western Canada’s natural gas industry by opening up the vast Asia Pacific marketplace to domestic producers, and by reducing Canadian reliance on our traditional – and now saturated – US markets. Ensuring positive FIDs is, therefore, clearly in the national interest. Any “safeguard measures” designed to assist steel producers should carefully account for the “game-changing” importance of BC LNG plants for Western Canadian natural gas exports, job creation, and increased tax revenue for federal and provincial coffers.

A potential solution may be to consider a differentiated approach which continues to allow imported steel products from Asia and elsewhere into the extremely trade-dependent and supply-constrained BC and Western Canada marketplace without further tariffs or quotas, while (perhaps) pursuing safeguard measures “ringfenced” to Eastern Canadian construction markets. This requires further examination.

To conclude, we encourage you and your colleagues to consider two final points:

  1. Your consultation process on further “safeguard measures” for the steel industry – while very welcome – is rushed. We encourage your government to take more time to consider the potential consequences of “safeguard measures” on British Columbia and Western Canada’s resource and construction industries.
  2. Given the critical importance and pressing nature of this issue, we respectfully request a meeting at your earliest convenience with ICBA and other affiliated interests to discuss this matter, especially the importance of ensuring price-competitive access to “rebar” (and other product classes).

On behalf our members, thank you for the opportunity to comment on the critically important issue of whether your government should take further steps to prevent diversion of steel products into Canada through further tariff or quota “safeguard measures”.

While we understand your government is facing challenging NAFTA negotiations and fallout from trade sanctions initiated by the US administration, we are deeply concerned that “safeguard measures”, if implemented, will unduly restrict competitively-priced foreign supplies of steel, drive up costs for construction service providers and consumers, and impair construction activity which is a key driver of BC’s economy.

TRAINING THURSDAY: Hazard Recognition and Control

Do you know how to recognize hazards in the workplace, and better yet, how to control them? Our Hazard Recognition and Control course on September 13 in Burnaby will give you the required knowledge to understand the principles of hazard recognition and control, as well as the methods used to ensure those hazards are identified and addressed. You’ll also take part in reviewing a number of hazard scenarios and learn how to develop procedures for mitigating the identified hazards.

Here’s what’s covered:

  • The regulatory requirements to identify and assess hazards.
  • Who may do a hazard assessment?
  • How to gather information regarding the hazards of a process?
  • How to conduct interviews with persons familiar with the process being assessed?
  • Developing appropriate conclusions and mitigating factors.
  • Completing the Hazard Assessment Form and develop Safe Work Procedures.

We pride ourselves on our relevant and engaging courses, and this one is no exception. Our instructor, Terry, never fails to impress participants with his knowledge. And, you’ll earn 7.5 Group A CPD Points for this course!

Register for this course or any of our upcoming workshops at www.icba.ca/courses.

Kerkhoff Construction – The Next Generation

On behalf of ICBA, a hearty congratulations to life member Bill Kerkhoff on the news that he is stepping back from his role as President and CEO of Kerkhoff Construction, a family company with a 50-year history and an incredible legacy in B.C. construction.

The company announced earlier this month that Bill will take on a new role as Executive Director, and his son Leonard will step up as the new President and CEO. Leonard has been with the company for 12 years, serving the past five as Vice President and General Manager.

“This is an important milestone for Kerkhoff Construction, one that is grounded in the original values, vision and principles that built this company over the past 50 years.” Bill and Leonard said in a joint statement. “We are looking forward to exciting years ahead.”

It is impossible to overstate how important Bill Kerkhoff and his company have been to the open shop movement in B.C. It was Kerkhoff & Sons Construction that built the first major, open shop public project in B.C. – the courthouse in Kamloops. It was Kerkhoff and his allies at Rempel Bros. Concrete who stared down the angry, vicious trade union mob at the Pennyfarthing project in Vancouver. Kerkhoff built a big chunk of Expo 86 and the SkyTrain bridge to Surrey.

In naming his company business of the year in 1984, B.C. Business said Bill had “unleashed forces that even this mildly spoken 34-year-old probably never suspected existed: forces of venom, hate, physical abuse, admiration, stoicism and bewilderment.” Terming him a “reluctant hero”, the magazine said he was “the most redoubtable warrior with which the union movement has had to contend in modern times.”

We’re excited to see what the future holds for Kerkhoff Construction.

Tales of Prop Rep Horror #6 – “Indonesian Indecency”

Imagine a “democracy” where one-third of voters sell their votes. That’s what happens in prop rep Indonesia.

“Indonesia’s open-list proportional voting system plays a crucial role in explaining the ubiquity of vote buying,” said an expert. The margins between candidates is so slim that even a small bump in vote buying can put people over the top.

Indonesia has tried two forms of prop rep, and both have been prone to vote buying. Under the previous prop rep system, “there were numerous reports of wealthy candidates purchasing winnable slots on party lists by bribing party leaders.”

Prop rep makes party leaders incredibly powerful, because candidates have to curry their favour – and their favour only – to get on the party lists. Any B.C. Prop Rep activist who claims there will be more freedom for legislators under a new system is lying. Real world experience, including in Indonesia, proves otherwise.

Yet another reason to Stop Prop Rep! www.icba.ca/stopproprep

Pass this post on to your friends and family – David Eby’s draconian, anti-free speech rules won’t allow us to advertise it, but individuals can spread it as much as they like. Let’s make sure every British Columbian sees it. 

And stay tuned for more “Tales of Prop Rep Horror”…

Tales of Prop Rep Horror #5 – “Beware the Greeks!”
Tales of Prop Rep Horror #4 – “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! NO! NO! NO!”
Tales of Prop Rep Horror #3 – “From Russia With Blood”
Tales of Prop Rep Horror #2 – “The Pain in Spain”
Tales of Prop Rep Horror #1 – “The Puzzle of Brussels”

NEWS RELEASE: ICBA Considering Options After Court Decision

VANCOUVER – The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) is disappointed that the BC Supreme Court was unwilling to press the pause button on holding the referendum on proportional representation. Earlier today, the Court rejected the application by ICBA for an injunction to postpone the referendum before a ruling is issued on its legal challenge. The Courts rarely, if ever, grant such an injunction, and Justice Gropper made that point clearly in her decision today. We understood this likelihood but given the critical importance of this matter and the very short time frame which the NDP government set for the referendum period we decided to pursue this course of action.

Our challenge was delayed because the NDP government said it was not ready to proceed quickly to defend its rules, its regulations and its process. With all the resources and expertise at the disposal of the Ministry of Justice, it is incredibly hard to understand how the NDP government was not ready to defend the referendum it created on a faster timeline.

“British Columbians could be forgiven for thinking that the Government is playing politics on an issue that goes to the core of our democracy and that it is rigging the process to engineer the outcome that it desires,” stated Chris Gardner, President of the ICBA.

The ICBA continues to wait for the NDP government’s formal response to our legal challenge. When the government files its response, the hearing on ICBA’s legal challenge can proceed. Unfortunately, the delay means British Columbians will not have the benefit of a decision until shortly before the closing of the voting period for the referendum.

“British Columbians deserve better than this,” said Gardner. “Changing the way we elect our government deserves more than passing consideration – it requires a fair and open process with a clear question and a reasonable timeline that allows for a robust debate.”  Read more