Wilkinson: NDP spending money to help unions

The increased project costs of the Illecillewaet four-laning leave taxpayers on the hook

Submitted by: Andrew Wilkinson, BC Liberal Party Leader

I recently spent a few days in Revelstoke and had the opportunity to see the work underway for the Illecillewaet expansion on Highway 1.

This is the first project under John Horgan and the NDP’s Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), which the government claimed would help deliver projects on time and on budget while prioritizing local employment with higher wages.

READ MORE: Illecillewaet four-laning project employing Revelstokians

Unfortunately, I believe that “community benefits agreement” is an entirely misleading term given, in my opinion, the only people benefiting from this NDP scheme are the union donors and friends specially chosen by John Horgan.

I spoke with people in the community and a few workers on the project and it became very clear that taxpayers are in trouble now and for the foreseeable future if John Horgan keeps handing out big, expensive contracts to his union-only friends and donors.

Shortly after the contract was awarded for the expansion, the project budget suddenly increased by $22.3 million. That’s at least $11,000 extra per meter of highway in cost overruns.

READ MORE: Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

These cost overruns are largely because of higher labour costs brought on by the NDP’s CBA requirement. The federal government is only contributing $15.5 million towards the estimated $85.2 million cost of the project – meaning British Columbians alone are on the hook for the rest.

Those cost overruns could have meant two additional trades facilities at the College of the Rockies. Or a new playground for every park and school across the Kootenays. Or 223 units of affordable rental housing in the communities that need it the most.

READ MORE: Contract awarded for Highway 1 four-laning project near Revelstoke

And rather than spending your tax dollars on projects that help communities, in my opinion, John Horgan and the NDP are spending your tax dollars on projects that help their union donors. That’s not fair and it’s not right.

It’s clear to me that John Horgan has prioritized this donor payoff over getting the best deal for British Columbians.

British Columbians in every corner of the province are tackling serious affordability concerns. Tradespeople are concerned for their jobs and families are wondering if their kids will have a future in B.C.

While hardworking British Columbians foot the bill for John Horgan’s union deal, they are also shouldering the brunt of the 19 new or increased taxes brought in by the NDP.

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.

READ MORE: Federal funding for Highway 1 four-laning east of Revelstoke

The Illecillewaet expansion is already over budget when shovels have barely hit the ground. If this is the standard being set by the NDP, how much will British Columbians have to fork over for future union-only projects? Or worse still, how many projects will John Horgan cancel because the NDP simply can’t afford to cover their costs?

You deserve a government that helps create local jobs but also works hard to get the best deal for taxpayers on every investment.



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