End of closed tendering in Hamilton would save millions of dollars

July 22, 2013

HAMILTON — With massive infrastructure projects in development, including the new Ivor Wynne Stadium, the City of Hamilton requires a return to open tendering now more than ever to get the best possible value for taxpayers, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris said today.

“As soon as closed tendering began in Hamilton, infrastructure costs spiked by as much as 40%,” Harris said at the Construction House of Hamilton. “Now the city must cope with inflated expenses for major projects, like its new football stadium, all because Ontario’s labour laws fail to clearly spell out what organizations are subject to the province’s collective-bargaining rules for the construction industry.”

In 2005, the Carpenters’ Union certified the City of Hamilton under labour rules designed, and only intended for, construction companies operating in the private sector. After certification, municipal infrastructure costs soon rose dramatically in some cases. For example, the first wastewater project tendered after the city was certified came in 83% over budget – or $24 million more than expected.

“Clearly, this situation is unacceptable both because of the excessive costs and the fact that the city’s tendering process prevents thousands of qualified contractors from bidding on municipal contracts,” Harris said. “I believe every qualified contractor should have the right, regardless of their union affiliation, to work on publicly funded infrastructure.”

To end closed tendering in Hamilton and other communities subject to labour monopolies, like Toronto and Sault Ste. Marie, Harris tabled the Fair and Open Tendering Act on May 16 at Queen’s Park. This bill, if passed, would add a very clear definition to the Labour Relations Act that would exempt municipalities and school boards from the province’s labour rules for the construction sector.

“This much-needed legislative change would ensure that municipalities would no longer be at risk of losing millions of dollars to fund a labour monopoly that forces them to restrict qualified contractors from building our bridges, water treatment facilities and public buildings,” Harris said.

The Progressive Contractors Association of Canada and the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) have both been actively working to gain support for fair and open construction tendering and Harris’s Bill, said Ian DeWaard, regional director with CLAC. “We are pleased that Mr. Harris has put forward this fair proposal to close an expensive legal loophole.”