B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson submitted this commentary on the NDP government’s new policy for public construction. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena responds here. Special to Black Press.
In mid-summer, Premier John Horgan proudly introduced a policy that may go down in history as the worst and most damaging idea ever proposed by a B.C. government.
The NDP’s so-called “Community Benefits Agreement” will bring zero benefits to communities, or to workers. We are calling it their Union Benefits Agreement (UBA). This is because the agreement is nothing more than a blatant payoff to the NDP’s biggest political supporters: the bosses of big union organizations. It’s a taxpayer-funded gift to these union bosses who have donated over $2 million to the NDP since 2005.
This is bad news for workers, especially those just starting out. The pay mandated under this agreement is actually below minimum wage for some skilled tradesworkers. For others, the extra few dollars they’ll make will get taken straight out of their pockets for union dues. In fact, the agreement says that taxpayer funds will get funneled directly to the NDP’s supporters: just one example is the 25 cents per person-hour on the Pattullo Bridge replacement project that is earmarked solely for “union administration”.
Eighty-five per cent of our construction workforce is non-union by choice. The NDP is now forcing those workers to join a union if they want to work on a major public project. Not just any unions, mind you. Workers will be asked to choose from a list of 19 approved unions. To no one’s surprise, all 19 are major NDP donors.
The NDP is also limiting opportunity by geography. Perhaps you’d like to work on the Pattullo Bridge project, but you happen to live in the Okanagan, or on Vancouver Island. You’re out of luck. The NDP has limited hiring to a 100km radius of the project.
This is an appalling violation of our freedoms. I believe that if British Columbians are paying for the project, they should be able to work on it, regardless of which town they live in or whether they choose to be in a union or not.
This deal is going to cost all of us. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) estimates UBAs will add as much as $4.8 billion to the cost of public projects. That’s $4,000 per B.C. family so the NDP can reward their friends. British Columbians cannot afford this union payoff.
With these Union Benefits Agreements, the NDP is taking us backwards. This is a radical policy from an activist government, and we’ll fight it every step of the way.
As Official Opposition, we’ll be holding this government to account, day after day, on behalf of all British Columbians.
Whether they’re unionized or not.