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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Mary Lowther column: Time to plan the winter garden

Weeds have gotten away on me, I’ve just finished laying out my soaker hoses

Sarah Simpson Column: Finding nature at home

It was time to call in reinforcements.

Shady Lady: legendary Catalina touches down on Cowichan Lake

Two flying boats test the waters west of Youbou

Under new ownership, Cowichan’s Isles prepare for 2020-21

The Isles have gone through some ups and downs in recent seasons

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Missing teen visiting Courtenay found safe

She had last been seen going for a walk on Aug. 6

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Fitness non-profit challenges citizens to invent a game to be physically active

The campaign was launched after a study showed only 4.8 per cent of children and youths in Canada met required standards of the 24-hour movement guidelines

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Most Read