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B.C. industry reacts to megaproject delays: ‘Every single project is over budget and behind’

Warren Frey
B.C. industry reacts to megaproject delays: ‘Every single project is over budget and behind’
PROVINCE OF B.C. — Several construction industry stakeholders are criticizing the B.C. government after news two megaprojects, The Pattullo Bridge and Broadway Subway (pictured), are facing more delays.

A pair of delays have Lower Mainland construction stakeholders questioning the provincial government’s approach to major infrastructure projects.

Rob Fleming, B.C.’s minister of transportation and infrastructure, announced May 24 completion of the Patullo Bridge project will be delayed until fall 2025 and the Broadway Subway project won’t go into service until fall 2027. This is about a year delay for each project.

president Chris Gardner said the provincial government needs to demonstrate more transparency and accountability given the size of the projects facing delays and cost overruns.

“When you look at major project infrastructure delivery (in B.C.), every single project is over budget and behind schedule, whether its Site C, the Pattullo Bridge, the Broadway Subway or North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant project,” he said.

Gardner pointed to project labour agreements (PLA) put in place by the provincial NDP government as part of the problem. PLAs, also known as community benefit agreements (CBAs), require companies bidding on government infrastructure builds to conform to an already existing collective bargaining agreement tied to the specific project.

The majority of contractors and subcontractors in B.C. are open-shop and not affiliated with a union, he stated.

“The procurement process is breaking down. Taxpayers are paying an increased amount and we’re all paying the cost of not having the benefit of using infrastructure,” he said.

“In a time of shortages of the number of people in construction, why would the government say they’re going to build but only go to 15 per cent of the market for the solution?”

PCA) B.C. regional director Dan Baxter echoed Gardner’s concerns regarding PLAs.

“The government, by utilizing restrictive labour policies, are putting themselves at a disadvantage from the get-go,” he said. “Where does that put alternative unions and non-union companies?

“We already have a shortage of construction workers. If they took that step away it wouldn’t solve all the issues, but it would be one step in the right direction to keep projects on time,” Baxter said.

(VRCA) president Jeannine Martin said while the VRCA opposes the use of PLAs, there is reason for optimism as newer projects may not operate under the same strictures as previous large infrastructure projects.

“We are seeing the trend that it (CBAs) is not being implemented in the way that it was on these major projects. That’s what we seeing procurement going forward and we’re glad about that,” Martin said.

“There are still project labour agreements and other things that are being put on those projects but the CBA as it was originally advertised seems to be fading into the background,” she said.

She also pointed to other factors, such as a five-week cement strike in 2022 that raised costs and constricted concrete supply as a possible cause for project delays.

“The feedback I got from my members is, a couple of days, the industry can absorb but five weeks? Then all that supply is coming from someone else who is already supplying someone else,” Martin said. “I certainly couldn’t say that’s why these projects are delayed but it’s relevant to the industry.”

executive director Brynn Bourke focused on worker contributions to the Pattullo Bridge and Broadway Subway projects as well as other major infrastructure projects across Canada.

“Projects across the country are facing delays due to supply chain challenges and market conditions. Construction workers in B.C. have never stopped working through the tremendously challenging conditions of the past four-and-a-half years. We should all feel a profound sense of gratitude towards the workers who are building this important infrastructure for the people of B.C.,” Bourke said in a statement to the Journal of Commerce. 


B.C. project news: Pattullo Bridge, new Broadway subway face significant delays


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