VRCA talks construction with BC United Leader Kevin Falcon

The association is interviewing party leaders ahead of the provincial election.

Key Takeaways:

  • The VRCA’s Constructive Conversations is a platform for industry stakeholders to engage with decision-makers and discuss solutions for a sustainable future for the construction sector.
  •  The first event, held on April 11, welcomed Premier Eby as the inaugural guest. The third edition of the series is scheduled for August 28, with BC Conservative Leader John Rustad as the guest speaker.
  • Kevin Falcon, BC United Leader, emphasized the need for collaboration between government and industry to address these challenges. He highlighted attracting more youth to skilled trades and prompt payment legislation as key areas needing attention. 

The Whole Story:

The Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA) hosted its second Constructive Conversations event last week featuring BC United leader Kevin Falcon. This event brings together VRCA members, industry leaders and stakeholders to address critical issues impacting the construction sector in B.C. The province will be holding an election this October.

“I think sometimes legislators, certainly at the provincial level, feel a little untouchable and out of reach and we want to let our members know that these are the people we need to be talking to about construction and what’s going on in construction,” said Jeannine Martin, VRCA president. “Construction is 10% of our GDP and the fact that construction isn’t getting more attention from legislators is surprising to me.”

Martin added that these conversations are a great opportunity to understand what a candidate’s views are on the construction sector and let them know the major issues the industry is thinking about.

The 90-minute conversation with Falcon covered various crucial topics related to the growth and sustainability of the construction industry.

These included elevating the brand of construction to attract more individuals to skilled trades, addressing the housing crisis and its impact on drawing people to B.C., the necessity for targeted immigration, short- and long-term infrastructure funding, and the importance of affordable childcare for working families.

Do you support prompt payment?

When asked about his stance on prompt payment, Falcon noted that he has heard the stories of developers taking advantage of contractors. He expressed his support for implementing some form of prompt payment, but wanted to make sure time was taken to structure it well.  

“You have to pay your people so it doesn’t take long before you can find yourself in a whole world of hurt. How will it be structured? I would take a lot of guidance from you on how to get it right,” said Falcon. “I would look at who does it best in Canada. Alberta? Ontario? And why they do it best. But I 100% agree that we need some form of prompt payment legislation. I know what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, you’ve got those receivables and you are waiting on some big payments that are due. That just doesn’t work.”

BC Construction Association President Chris Atchison responded to Falcon, noting that cross-jurisdictional analysis is currently being done on prompt payment language and processes that work best. He also reminded Falcon of his previous comments around developers. 

“You mentioned one thing that is an irony when we are talking about prompt payment,” said Atchison. “We recognize that they are all different, but when you say we need to make the developers whole if we are introducing a program to inspire building. You can’t on one hand make the developers whole and offer to make tradespeople whole if you don’t connect the dots to make sure payment flows to the people.”

How do we attract and retain more workers?

Falcon lamented that B.C. was becoming a harder and harder place for young people to succeed, adding that this is particularly challenging for B.C.’s construction sector which is looking to recruit the next generation for workers. 

“One in three British Columbians is looking to move outside the province,” he said. “We lost 70,000 people to Alberta last year. Right now B.C. is a really tough sell. It’s tough for you to attract and retain employees. Even more concerning, of 18- 35-year-olds, 50% are looking at leaving British Columbia. That terrifies me.” 

He believes that improving healthcare, bringing down home and rental prices, and providing affordable childcare can help prevent more young families and workers from leaving.

“When you talk to workers and people in the trades, they say ‘I can’t make it here. I can’t ever dream of owning a home in British Columbia,” said Falcon. “At least I can go to Alberta and have a chance.’”

Falcon also believes more work needs to be done to educate young people in school about trades opportunities and to honour trades workers.

“Not every child should go to university. We need to do a better job of letting young women and men know that there is great opportunity,” said Falcon. “We have given parents the mistaken impression that somehow every child must go to university or they will be less than successful. We have to change that. Many of them graduate and still have no jobs or opportunity”

He recalled that during his time as minister of transportation, he would go around to major projects with plaques, medals and ceremonies to celebrate workers.

“We have to do a better job of celebrating the trades and make people proud to be trades people like they are in Europe,” said Falcon.

He also plans to pressure the federal government on immigration to prioritize more skilled trades immigration. And he wants to work to immediately funnel immigrants toward the construction sector by providing them with language and skills training, 

Does construction get the attention it deserves?

Martin explained that construction drives more than 10% of GDP in B.C. but rarely is in the limelight. She asked if Falcon thought there should be a government official or department that could focus on the sector and its issues.  She was curious what Falcon’s thoughts on the construction sector were and if he feels like it needs more attention.

“I think the construction industry is a huge, important part of the economy and they did such a great job for us when we were in government,” said Falcon. “I was minister of transportation and infrastructure for six years and was responsible for over $14 billion in capital projects, many of them built by your members. The vast majority were delivered on schedule and on budget, granted those were different times with different challenges. I don’t know if we need a minister of construction, but we need a minister responsible that understands the importance of the sector.”


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