Section of the Trans-Canada Highway east of Revelstoke to be widened starting this year at a cost of more than $85 million for two kilometres of four-laning and an expanded truck stopping area. (B.C. transportation ministry)

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

The price tag for the latest four-laning project on the Trans-Canada Highway jumped by more than $22 million as the first contract was awarded on the NDP government’s new union public construction mandate.

The B.C. transportation ministry has awarded the two-km stretch east of Revelstoke to Kelowna-based Emil Anderson Construction, with a budget increased from $62.9 million to $85.2 million. The increase is “due to escalating costs of materials, labour and the complexity of work required,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Illecillewaet project, 42 km east of Revelstoke, includes acceleration and deceleration lanes and an expanded brake-check area for trucks. Construction is expected to begin in June, with completion by spring of 2022, with $15.5 million provided by the federal government and B.C. funding the rest.

“In the case of this project in my riding, the federal funding share is not going to change, so B.C. taxpayers are on the hook for these increased costs,” said Doug Clovechok, B.C. Liberal MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke.

Premier John Horgan’s government has directed that all large public construction be done under a “community benefits agreement” that requires employees to join international unions affiliated with the B.C. and Yukon Building Trades Council. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena estimated that the agreements would increase labour costs by up to seven per cent, partly due to expanded opportunities for apprentices.

The ministry issued a statement to Black Press Tuesday, saying the steep increase is partly due to a “hot construction market” for materials and labour, including a 30 per cent steel premium and 20 per cent on asphalt for paving.

The Independent Contractors and Business Association, a mostly non-union group of companies that has joined a court action against the NDP policy, says the cost increase is a direct result of the union restrictions.

READ MORE: B.C.’s union rules could create construction ‘battle zone’

READ MORE: Construction companies challenge ‘illegal’ B.C. union deal

“The NDP’s sweetheart deal with their building trade union allies has driven the cost of this project up by a third, and they’re not even in the ground yet,” ICBA president Chris Gardner said. “It’s no surprise. There were far fewer bidders than expected as many roadbuilding companies are avoiding the NDP’s forced labour model.”

Gardner predicted that the Pattullo bridge replacement, the Broadway subway in Vancouver and other sections of the Trans-Canada four-laning from Kamloops to the Alberta border will also cost more.

The 300-page B.C. deal creates a new Crown corporation, B.C. Infrastructure Benefits, to control payroll, union dues and benefits for public construction. It will divert 25 cents per hour for each employee to a new union council called the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council of B.C., and another seven cents per hour to building trades union funds for health and safety, rehabilitation and skills training.

Non-union or independent union-affiliated companies can bid on taxpayer-funded projects, but their employees are required to join one of the designated international trade unions within 30 days of starting the job.

The B.C. Construction Association also objects to the new deal, calling the name “community benefit agreement” a way to “disguise a union labour agreement.” The deal requires wage increases of two per cent per year until 2024 with no strikes allowed.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Duncan Swin Team makes history at junior nationals

In the history of the Duncan Swim Team, fewer than 30 swimmers… Continue reading

Talking about dementia is different when your own family is involved

Wilkinson shares a special story about his own father

VIDEO: Could we BE any more excited? ‘Friends’ fans go crazy for merch

Movie theatres will show select episodes to mark the NBC series’ 25th anniversary

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Pile of wood mulch ‘spontaneously combusts’ at Vancouver Island industrial site

Business owner thanks fire department for quick response

Five hedgehogs quickly adopted after being left at BC SPCA

Lucky new owners picked up their pets from Maple Ridge branch on Aug. 20

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

Nearly 50% of Canadians experience ‘post-vacation blues’: poll

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

Vancouver Island senior found safe with help from six search and rescue teams

Wayne Strilesky found safe in thick brush in north Nanaimo

Most Read