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International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115 will rebuild BC

Investment in BC's recovery

By Brian Cochrane

The devastating floods in southern B.C. that severed vital road and rail links highlighted the integral, yet fragile nature of the province’s transportation networks. They also served as a long-overdue wake-up call on the urgent need for massive, sustained public infrastructure investment in the province.

Dependable infrastructure is the backbone of our economy. As British Columbians emerge from the second straight year of COVID-19 restrictions, the province is going to need extensive construction activity to get B.C.’s battered economy back on track. In its upcoming provincial budget, the B.C. government should make a meaningful commitment to aggressive, long-term infrastructure investment as a central pillar of its post-post pandemic economic recovery plan.

Much of B.C.’s physical infrastructure has been underfunded for decades and has not kept pace with public needs. The provincial government has made significant progress in upgrading and refurbishing many existing public assets, but we’re still playing catch-up on decades worth of underinvestment. The Highway 1 expansion from Kamloops to the Alberta border, the four-lane highway at Tappen, and the R.W. Bruhn Bridge replacement in Sicamous are just a few examples from a long list of “end of life” or required upgrades.

Sustained investment in transportation and transit is particularly important to our economic prosperity, which helps ease gridlock, improves accessibility and boosts productivity. Schools, hospitals, dikes and dams all need seismic upgrades or replacing throughout the province, which can’t be put off any longer. B.C.’s public buildings need to be built to higher energy standards to meet our greenhouse gas emission targets and reduce costs.

All these projects can be efficiently built under a workforce delivery model that ensures local job opportunities for Indigenous, people with disabilities and women in trades, including apprenticeship and skills training that will last a lifetime.

Preference for local hires means workers will spend their wages in the community, supporting small businesses devastated by COVID-19 and contributing to the tax base.

Construction unions and the industry are generally well-positioned to provide essential training for new and incumbent workers ensuring they have the necessary skills to meet the technological challenges of tomorrow, helping build a resilient and dynamic workforce connected to high-quality jobs.

The pandemic has inflicted a catastrophic human and economic toll. But massive, long-term infrastructure investment provides a unique opportunity to revitalize our economy and transform our province for the future. Now is the time to put political vision into action, get British Columbians back to work, and create the prosperity needed to put the last two years behind us.

Brian Cochrane is business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115, representing more than 12,500 skilled workers in the construction, transportation, mining, aviation and other industrial sectors throughout B.C. and the Yukon.

This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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