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The Low-Down on Construction – October 7, 2019

We are now a little over halfway through the run up to the federal election, and through all of the news, sideshows, distractions and other noise, one of the key issues that has emerged is INFRASTRUCTURE.

Investing in infrastructure has long been a key priority for our members, and it is an issue we have continued to drive at all levels of government. But we have also been at the forefront to ensure that public procurement – public building projects – remains open to all qualified bidders whether open-shop or unionized.

The two main federal parties – Liberals and Conservatives – have both made commitments to public investments in infrastructure, and this important to not only our members but also to Canadians across the country.  But as is often the case, the devil is in the details!

So far, the Liberals have (prior to the election) announced they would make large investments in public infrastructure including highways, bridges, water, and more. The Conservatives have said they would honour all projects already announced.  While we at MERIT are encouraged by both positions, we will of course continue to monitor the party platforms and comment as this election proceeds.

There is one point of concern from the Liberal promises, and that is their suggestion that public projects be subject to “community benefit agreements” (CBAs). We have noted in the past that while CBAs sound benign and intended to direct local benefits to local projects, they too often become cover for excluding smaller, open-shop, and independent contractors and workers from bidding and working on these projects. Here in Saskatchewan, over 80% of all construction and trades workers work in open-shop firms, so if the Liberal plan proceeds with this provision included, that would bar 3 out of 4 Saskatchewan workers from working on public projects.

MERIT Saskatchewan will continue to stand up for our members to ensure that public procurement remains open and fair to all qualified bidders to ensure that taxpayers get the best value for government projects.