IN THE LEDGE – Will the minister come clean on the cost of labour deals?

MLA Peter Milobar.

Debate during Question Period on Oct. 1, 2018 between MLAs Peter Milobar, Todd Stone and Transportation Minister Claire Trevena on the cost of Community Benefits Agreements in government contracts.

P. Milobar: In July, the Premier refused to answer media questions about the cost of his payoff to NDP-approved union bosses. In fact, July 30, the Premier said: “We have got two projects underway.” Before we have too many people piling on about the consequences, “we should get the tenders back.” Well, the closing day for those tenders was September 27.

Therefore, will the minister table all documents related to the project costing and come clean about the true cost of the payoff to the NDP-approved union bosses?

Hon. C. Trevena: If it was up to the opposition when they were in government, we wouldn’t be having the Pattullo being built. They ignored this. This is a bridge. It is a vital link across the Fraser. We need that bridge to be replaced. We are going to be replacing it. There is no question.

We’re going to be linking Surrey and New Westminster. We’re using the community benefits agreement framework. We are very satisfied with this. We have the RFQ process completed. We’ll be moving into the request for proposals. Any benefits to the community definitely outweigh whether there is an increased cost or not. We are investing in our communities.

Mr. Speaker: Kamloops–North Thompson on a supplemental.

P. Milobar: Well, we’re not asking questions on whether or not the Pattullo is a needed transportation connection. It obviously is. And we’re not asking questions about barista training programs. We’re asking questions about the increased cost of the CBAs.

On February 16, the minister announced the Pattullo project would cost $1.377 billion. Exactly five months later, on July 16, tenders were issued and the union benefit agreement was announced with no change to the budget. But this is what the Vancouver Sun wrote in July: “The labour deal is estimated to boost the Pattullo costs by 7 percent, or almost $100 million.”

I believe the minister verified that 7 percent. So will the minister table documents that explain this costing and tell British Columbians the truth about the cost of this payoff to NDP-approved union bosses?

Hon. C. Trevena: The simple answer is that the $1.377 billion is the cost. There is no increased cost. That’s the cost.

It might be hard for the opposition to understand since they have an incredibly bad record in looking at costs when you talk about major infrastructure. The Port Mann Bridge, $1.8 billion over budget under their guidance — and they have the temerity to lecture us about costs. The Pattullo is $1.377 billion. That’s what we said when we announced it. That’s what we’re still saying. That is the cost of the Pattullo Bridge.

T. Stone: Well, it’s not only the Pattullo Bridge which the NDP are proving quite adept at providing taxpayers with less for more. We now know what’s coming to the Trans-Canada — a four-laning project east of Kamloops, thanks to the NDP’s union benefit agreement. Higher costs, decreased scope and delayed construction.

The Hoffman’s Bluff to Jade Mountain four-laning project was announced 2½ years ago, and construction was supposed to start a year ago. Instead, nothing has happened on this project except the announcement of a payoff to the NDP’s approved union bosses.

My question to the Minister of Transportation is this: how can the Minister of Transportation continue to say she’s accelerating Trans-Canada four-laning projects when, in fact, she has added cost, scaled back features and has delayed construction of these projects by over two years?

Hon. C. Trevena: As I say, we are exceedingly proud about the community benefits agreement. I’m very pleased to see that it’s going to be working in the Interior of British Columbia, as well as the Lower Mainland.

The member used to be the Minister of Transportation before he became an opposition member. When he was the Minister of Transportation, he was very well aware of the negotiations that had been taking place over this stretch of highway. In fact, I’ve had conversations out of this chamber with him about that.

The negotiations have been ongoing. We are committed to making it work. In the early new year, we will be tendering a number of the Trans-Canada Highway projects under the community benefits framework. I think that people will be seeing a huge benefit throughout the Interior from using a new system to be hiring people, filling a skills shortage, making sure that people get to work and making sure people get trained when they get to work.

Source: BC Hansard, draft transcript.

About Mel Rothenburger (6626 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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