Earlier this month, the federal government made a major funding announcement of highway improvements in British Columbia.
Here in the Shuswap, we’re grateful for the coming four-lane upgrades to the Trans-Canada Highway between Ford Road and Tappen Valley Road, as well as replacement of the highway bridge in Tappen, but the lack of participation from the BC NDP government concerns me.
Typically, these infrastructure upgrades are done in partnership between both levels of government, so the NDP’s absence at the announcement was disheartening. It was made clear for all to see that the relationship between John Horgan and Ottawa has deteriorated to an unprecedented level. Projects such as these have to be coordinated with the provincial government, but after the way Horgan and the NDP have constantly provoked the federal government, especially over the pipeline expansion, it seems Ottawa just can’t trust Horgan to work collaboratively.
On top of those tensions, Horgan’s new labour scheme, the so-called Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), may have been the final nail in the coffin for this project’s provincial funding.
An analysis by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business shows that CBAs could add as much as $4.8 billion more to the cost of public projects. Despite their name, Community Benefits Agreements serve only to benefit a small group of Horgan’s hand-picked unions while putting pressure on private sector construction companies and contractors. It is little more than a payback with taxpayer dollars to the building trades unions who have donated millions to the NDP since 2005. Rather than getting the best deal for taxpayers, John Horgan is spending your money to pay back his friends.
The Highway 1 expansion at Illecillewaet, a project that does have provincial funding, is the first to use a CBA with costs already increased by $22.3 million, an overrun that could have funded 223 units of affordable housing. At the end of the day, the federal government is only contributing $15.5 million towards the Illecillewaet project, no matter how much costs balloon under the NDP. With Ottawa refusing to buy Horgan’s spin on his union pay-off, British Columbians are on the hook for the rest of what is currently an $85.2 million project.
Despite affordability concerns across the province, the NDP have introduced 19 new or increased taxes since taking power and are now making us all foot the bill for their union payback. It is no wonder why the federal government is acting alone and funding B.C. projects without mention of CBAs. Nobody believes Community Benefits Agreements actually benefit communities.