Hundreds of billions worth of construction projects are on the drawing board in B.C. As a result, most construction contractors geared up for even more work this year, despite an already intense pace. This will keep the industry’s GDP and employment contributions growing at the same pace as the provincial economy.
Kerry and Jordan discuss ICBA’s online ladder safety course, plus upcoming webinars this week:
Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 29, at 10AM, we host Rebuilding BC: Real Estate and Construction in the COVID-19 World with Bob Rennie and Andrew Ramlo.
Understanding the dynamics and complexities of real estate and development in Vancouver is challenging at the best of times. Now, COVID-19 is destroying jobs, investment and opportunity with a ferocity not seen in generations. Conventional models have been upended so where to turn? As we press the “reset” button on everything, it’s time for new thinking and a fresh perspective on where real estate and construction are moving as markets digest the implications of living and working with COVID-19. icba.ca/webinars
On Thursday, April 30, at noon, we host Guidance for Construction Sites Operating During COVID-19 with a legal team from Clark Wilson. We are fortunate in B.C. that construction work has been deemed an essential service during COVID-19. Projects can proceed but under new guidelines mandated by the Provincial Health Officer. In this webinar we will consider the new regime under which construction projects are permitted to operate, the impact on trade contractors, and the contractual issues that have arisen as a result. icba.ca/webinars
Ladder Safety (Online): A Canada-Compliant Training Class for Ladder Safety (covers portable, fixed, specialty and job-made ladders). I-CAB Recognized. To help employers and workers complete compliant ladder safety training, this online Ladder Safety Online course covers the fundamentals for the safe use of portable self-supporting, portable non-self-supporting, fixed, specialty, and job-made ladders. https://www.bistrainer.com/…/pro…/ladder-safety-online-combo
The following op-ed, by ICBA VP-Communications Jordan Bateman, first appeared on The Orca on April 21, 2020.
As B.C.’s COVID-19 curve flattens and even Dr. Bonnie Henry herself starts hinting about restarting swathes of the provincial economy, virus-locked industries are working on preparing pandemic-safe business practices.
And, as counterintuitive as it may seem, given the handful of COVID-19 outbreaks that occurred on ships over the past few weeks, the cruise industry and its effort to fight norovirus may provide a glimpse into the future for public life and consumer-facing businesses.
Fifteen years ago, norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships hit their peak, with 32 in 2006 alone. But by 2019, that number was down to nine, with thousands more sailings and millions more passengers (worldwide, 30 million people cruised in 2019). Nine outbreaks out of tens of thousands of sailings is a pretty good record.
How they did it may provide a small piece of the roadmap for other businesses to follow today – adapting hygiene standards in meaningful, visible, well-publicized ways.
From the moment you get on a cruise ship (at least Royal Caribbean, which my family enjoyed last year), you are reminded constantly to wash your hands. Much like the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, the reminders pop up everywhere. There are posters. There is a funny video played at the evacuation muster drill. There are hand sanitizer stations near every elevator, shop, staircase, theatre, washroom, and bar. Restaurants have cheerful staff waiting at the door, spraying sanitizer on to your hands before you can enter, as they sing “washy, washy!” to you. TVs play “wash your hands” jingles every 10 minutes. The reminders are constant, in-your-face, and (until COVID-19 arrived) effective. Our children, especially, were quickly programmed into hygiene experts.
That’s on top of what most passengers don’t see—the army of staff disinfecting surfaces and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.
It’s not a perfect system. For the people who suffered during those nine norovirus outbreaks, it obviously wasn’t enough. But for the tens of millions of passengers who sailed without incident, it worked.
Which brings us back to COVID-19 and consumer-facing businesses. Businesses, and the associations running them, are actively planning for how they can operate while protecting customers and workers. Can they limit the number of people in a space? How many can they serve while ensuring they remain socially distant? Can they offer them hand sanitizer? How do they improve online options? Are masks, even homemade cloth ones, now a must? What kind of automation will they need to accept?
Many businesses have already started – restaurants offer “contact-less” takeout while big box stores have curbside pickup and grocery stores have one-way aisles. These are just the start of the changes we will see in our shopping experience. Construction sites now routinely check workers’ temperatures and have handwashing stations available.
It’s important that consumers feel something substantial and visible has changed. After all, they will vote with their pocketbooks. They will avoid shops that make them feel insecure and instead head to places that seem to share their anxiety and demand for anti-COVID-19 measures.
In short, how do they make people feel safe again? After months in isolation, this will be a difficult task. Our brains have been rewired to accept the new normal of sticking close to home and only entering closed spaces for must-haves like groceries. We have developed a concern when people penetrate the six-foot “bubble” around us. Heck, there are people who disinfect every grocery item and Amazon box that arrives at their door; this is a mentality that will be hard to shift. As a society, a huge proportion of us will be shy—anxious, even—about re-entering the “real” world.
My suspicion is that when restrictions are lifted, we will see a brief rush on stores and services, led by those in absolute need of an item, the brave extroverts, and those who are relieved to be out of the house.
But I also suspect that burst will be shortlived, and business will slow again, as people measure their personal risk. This is similar to what happened before Dr. Henry issued her stay-at-home orders: businesses were already struggling to stay open as people started hunkering down. It was employers and citizens who led the way on reducing social interactions at the start of this pandemic. They will have to be the ones to lead us out of it, too. They will—but only to places and situations where they feel safe.
This is a lot to put on business owners who are already stretched to the max financially and emotionally. Many have already closed for good, through no fault of their own. They may have had a solid business plan, loyal customer base, great product and strong service, but they simply couldn’t survive months without revenue. Now they’re gone, and our communities are weaker for it.
If—and it remains a huge, massive, if—public health officials do allow shops and restaurants to reopen in a modified way in mid-May, the businesses that have survived this two-month shutdown, will have to find ways to adapt and ride out weeks (months?) of trying to rebuild their customer base.
Cruise lines, following the horror of COVID-19 breaking out on several ships, face that difficult challenge in an obvious, desperate way. But we’re fooling ourselves if we don’t think virtually every consumer-facing industry has that same problem. Business-as-usual simply isn’t going to happen: it’s going to be a series of small, visible steps to rebuild customer loyalty and acquisition.
It’s yet another challenge for reeling, desperate entrepreneurs.
This op-ed by ICBA President Chris Gardner first appeared on the Orca on April 21, 2020.
A deep sense of resignation and inevitability has settled in as we have watched the deliberate shut down of economies and countries in rapid succession around the globe.
Decisions to close businesses and borders on the scale we have witnessed are unprecedented – never before in history have governments moved with such purpose to dispatch the engine of our prosperity and direct millions to simply “stay home”.
Under the threat of fines or even jail, the comfort of life’s daily routines has come to an end. Much has been taken away – schools, playgrounds, restaurants, sports, celebrations, community events and simply just spending time with family, friends and neighbours. Gone or at risk are millions of jobs, along with business and industry that sustain and give meaning to our communities and our fellow citizens.
The social and economic upheaval we face is agonizing and heart-breaking for many individuals, families and communities. In ways we have yet to fully grasp, the repercussions of COVID-19 will be harsh and unforgiving. There is no playbook for what we are facing because for the first time since World War II, a generation is being called collectively into action and tested in ways that are difficult to fully comprehend.
In B.C., the collective sacrifices being made to “flatten the curve” appear to be working with our province recording some of the best results in North America. It’s now time to consider how we recalibrate our communities and how to restart large parts of our economy.
Against the backdrop of disruption, dislocation and deprivation that has been thrust upon individuals and businesses, three things have become abundantly clear over the past few weeks.
First, governments cannot backstop the massive economic losses facing individuals and businesses indefinitely, and the sooner we safely restart economic activity, the better. Second, the ferocity with which COVID-19 devastated families and communities cannot be underestimated, so getting people safely back to work is essential. And third, Canada’s economy was on perilous footing before COVID-19 struck, so the plan for how we emerge the current crisis is all the more important.
What is now required from our leaders is a road map to the new normal – and an answer to a simple question – how do we live with COVID-19 until a vaccine is found? How will our community centres, schools, sports venues, churches and places of work again be natural gathering places?
Starting points for recovery must include ways to get restaurants and coffee shops open again, albeit with new customer spacing measures. Local shops, personal service providers and malls all have to open their doors in ways that can be done safely.
Now is the time to expedite tenders for work on roads, bridges, ports, airports and local transit that improve long-term competitiveness and support diverse economic sectors, keep people and goods moving and help improve affordability for working families.
Given that fully 85% of the men and women who work in construction work for open shop companies, the government must ensure that every B.C. construction contractor and every construction worker has a fair shot at this work. Expensive special favours and tendering requirements that grant preferential status to select unions must end. After all, we all really are in this together.
Finally, there has never been a better time for the province to increase funding to colleges and technical institutions for trades training. We have all been thrust into a new world of online meetings. It’s time to leverage these new platforms for training and educating the next generation of skilled workers.
We are in the middle of a calamity not seen or experienced in any of our lifetimes. We now need clear thinking and bold action to see us through this crisis in a way that preserves people, communities and businesses, and provide resiliency against future threats like COVID-19.
- April 24 (Noon): Preparing for Emergency Reduced Income (with Credit Counselling Society of BC)
- April 29 (10AM): Rebuilding B.C.: Real Estate and Construction in the COVID-19 World (with Bob Rennie & Andrew Ramlo)
- Leadership for Safety – online anytime.
ICBA has been a driving force in getting the construction industry’s COVID-19 issues and concerns in front of government at all levels. Here are a couple of examples from yesterday – letters (both signed by multiple construction associations) to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan.
From the letter to the Prime Minister (click HERE for the full letter):
Laying the groundwork now for infrastructure stimulus spending for the COVID-19 recovery period will provide the critical lead-time for your officials and provincial and municipal counterparts to secure any required project permits and regulatory approvals and to complete legal obligations to consult and accommodate Indigenous Nations (where applicable).
As your government contemplates stimulus funding, we urge you and your colleagues to advance federal government tenders and maintain open, fair and transparent procurement processes based on achieving the best value at lowest reasonable cost for taxpayers without preference to non-union, non-affiliated union or building trades union contractors.
From the letter to the Premier (click HERE for the full letter):
Focus initially on getting as many smaller projects in the $5 million to $50 million range as possible identified and out to tender. Projects of this size and scope are important for construction contractors in every community in British Columbia. Leading candidates include: local roads, bridges and highway improvements; municipal infrastructure; new schools and additions to post-secondary institutions; healthcare; and, Indigenous Nation infrastructure (among others);
• Identify projects that may be idled during the current COVID-19 crisis for reasons of cashflow or other operational considerations. For example, we understand a number of projects at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) have ceased due to dramatic declines in airport authority revenues. In this and similar circumstances, we encourage both the federal and provincial governments to provide financial “backstopping” on a temporary basis to allow construction to restart immediately and for new projects in the tender pipeline to proceed without delay; and,
• Prioritize larger infrastructure projects which address national, provincial and local infrastructure ‘gaps’ and ‘deficits’, create significant family-supporting employment, and enable long-term productivity improvements in the national and provincial interest. Leading examples include Pacific Gateway, rapid transit and highway infrastructure.
Maclean and Jordan continue their COVID-19 discussions, including an audio love letter to Langford Mayor Stew Young, the shocking idea that cruise ships — yes, cruise ships — may provide a path to follow for a new, hygenically-obsessed world, and more. Plus the usual well-deserved razzing of Ben Isitt, Vancouver city council, and the media’s neverending adoration of Brad West.