September 2018 - ICBA

SUBMISSION: ICBA Pushes Back Against Ottawa’s Plans For Steel Tariffs

The following was submitted by ICBA to the federal government, regarding our concerns over B.C.’s steel supply.

By way of background, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) has been the leading voice of British Columbia’s construction industry for 43 years, representing more than 2,300 members and clients who collectively employ over 50,000 people. ICBA advocates for its members in support of a vibrant construction industry, responsible resource development, and a growing economy for the benefit of all British Columbians.

Together with other national and provincial industry associations, ICBA is writing to express our concern about the potential for “safeguard measures” which would further limit steel imports through tariffs or quotas. We are very concerned that any additional measures to restrict supply, and thereby increase costs, would have profoundly detrimental impacts on the Western Canadian construction industry generally, and British Columbia in particular.

The government’s examination of “safeguard measures”, while somewhat understandable in the context of the current trade dispute with the United States, comes on the heels of a 25 per cent tariff imposed on imports of US steel earlier this summer and previous measures imposed on steel imports from China, Korea, Japan and Hong Kong in 2015. As a result, construction service providers have been on the receiving-end of substantial cost escalations, which, in the final incidence, must be passed onto consumers or absorbed by firms through layoffs or cuts elsewhere in their businesses. It also occurs amidst two long-standing fundamental “supply-side” constraints facing BC-based construction firms sourcing steel and related products:

  • There is no steel mill in British Columbia. In fact, the closest source of steel for BC’s construction industry is a firm in Edmonton, AB which is able to supply only 10 per cent of BC’s demand. It is not in a position to fulfill any further BC requirements; and,
  • Transportation and logistics challenges militate against meeting BC’s demand from Eastern Canadian steel mills. The hard reality is that BC must continue to source its steel from the US, Turkey, and Asian markets. Steel sourced from Eastern Canada typically costs four times more to ship via rail versus sourcing from external markets by ocean freighter.

As your government considers “safeguard measures” in the form of tariffs or quotas, it is important to highlight some key risks inherent in further restricting supply and increasing costs for steel in British Columbia and Western Canada:

  • British Columbia – especially Metro Vancouver, Southern Vancouver Island, and the Central Okanagan – continues to experience robust construction activity. Any further increases to tariffs or restrictions on supply through quotas will drive up costs in areas of our province already facing affordability challenges, especially in housing markets;
  • BC’s position in steel re-manufacturing may already be at a competitive “tipping point” in some cases. The concurrent effects of the high land prices, high marginal effective tax rates (METR) relative to other jurisdictions, increased taxes and regulation, and severe competitive challenges brought about by massive tax reductions south of the border under the US Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in late 2017 have compounded an already challenging competitive environment for many firms. Anecdotally, increasingly there are project cancellations (especially in the housing market) and consideration being given by some firms to re-locating operations to Washington and other Western US states;
  • Shortages are already apparent since your government imposed retaliatory tariffs in July, and further measures will impair construction activity planned for Spring 2019, raising concerns about adequacy of supply for projects underway (e.g. Site C Dam) along with those commencing (e.g. Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion), among many others.
  • The federal government plans to undertake significant federal-provincial, shared-cost infrastructure over the next few years including, for example, the Broadway Skytrain extension and Surrey light rail rapid transit projects (among others). “Safeguard measures” for Eastern Canadian steel producers would, therefore, present federal and provincial taxpayers with higher construction material costs; and,
  • Apart from the general effects on a number of resource projects, BC (and Canada) are on the cusp of two potential positive final investment decisions for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plants on the West Coast. These projects will transform BC and Western Canada’s natural gas industry by opening up the vast Asia Pacific marketplace to domestic producers, and by reducing Canadian reliance on our traditional – and now saturated – US markets. Ensuring positive FIDs is, therefore, clearly in the national interest. Any “safeguard measures” designed to assist steel producers should carefully account for the “game-changing” importance of BC LNG plants for Western Canadian natural gas exports, job creation, and increased tax revenue for federal and provincial coffers.

A potential solution may be to consider a differentiated approach which continues to allow imported steel products from Asia and elsewhere into the extremely trade-dependent and supply-constrained BC and Western Canada marketplace without further tariffs or quotas, while (perhaps) pursuing safeguard measures “ringfenced” to Eastern Canadian construction markets. This requires further examination.

To conclude, we encourage you and your colleagues to consider two final points:

  1. Your consultation process on further “safeguard measures” for the steel industry – while very welcome – is rushed. We encourage your government to take more time to consider the potential consequences of “safeguard measures” on British Columbia and Western Canada’s resource and construction industries.
  2. Given the critical importance and pressing nature of this issue, we respectfully request a meeting at your earliest convenience with ICBA and other affiliated interests to discuss this matter, especially the importance of ensuring price-competitive access to “rebar” (and other product classes).

On behalf our members, thank you for the opportunity to comment on the critically important issue of whether your government should take further steps to prevent diversion of steel products into Canada through further tariff or quota “safeguard measures”.

While we understand your government is facing challenging NAFTA negotiations and fallout from trade sanctions initiated by the US administration, we are deeply concerned that “safeguard measures”, if implemented, will unduly restrict competitively-priced foreign supplies of steel, drive up costs for construction service providers and consumers, and impair construction activity which is a key driver of BC’s economy.

TRAINING THURSDAY: Cannabis in the Workplace

There are new and significant changes coming regarding the legal status of cannabis, and we want to make sure you know how to handle them! We are pleased to bring a new breakfast session, Cannabis in the Workplace, to Burnaby on September 25.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this informative two-hour session:

  • Learn more about the federal “Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations”.
  • Understand that a “prescription” for cannabis does not give an employee the absolute right to use it in the workplace.
  • Understand your rights when it comes to those in Safety-Sensitive positions.
  • Discuss employee and employer obligations with regard to the use of cannabis.
  • Recognize the rights, responsibilities and risks for both employers and employees to avoid unnecessary litigation.
  • Identify the various ways the use of cannabis impacts the employer-employee relationship, and what you can do about it.
  • Identify what employers should be doing now to prepare for the pending legalization by reviewing their workplace drug and alcohol policies.

We want to help you meet some of the challenges that you’ll face in the coming months, and answer your questions around the use of cannabis in the workplace. Register now at!

Tales of Prop Rep Horror #7: Rise of the Dictators

In the period between World War I and World War II, as people grappled with economic uncertainty, political divisions, and growing populism, 15 European democracies fell into dictatorships: Hungary, Italy, Bulgaria, Spain, Albania, Poland, Portugal, Yugoslavia, Lithuania, Romania, Germany, Austria, Estonia, Latvia and Greece.

These dictators came from all over the political spectrum but they used the same tool to rise to power: proportional representation. As pointed out in The Toronto Star: “No democracy that used first-past-the-post fell to dictatorship during the period.”

These extremists used the flaws of the prop rep system – too many parties, too little leadership – to pressure and eventually overtake mainstream political parties. And given today’s political environment of economic uncertainty, political divisions, and growing populism, there’s nothing to say it couldn’t happen again.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it!

Yet another reason to Stop Prop Rep!

Pass this post on to your friends and family – David Eby’s draconian, anti-free speech rules won’t allow us to advertise it, but individuals can spread it as much as they like. Let’s make sure every British Columbian sees it. 

And stay tuned for more “Tales of Prop Rep Horror”…

Tales of Prop Rep Horror #6 – “Indonesian Indecency”
Tales of Prop Rep Horror #5 – “Beware the Greeks!”
Tales of Prop Rep Horror #4 – “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! NO! NO! NO!”
Tales of Prop Rep Horror #3 – “From Russia With Blood”
Tales of Prop Rep Horror #2 – “The Pain in Spain”
Tales of Prop Rep Horror #1 – “The Puzzle of Brussels”

NEWS RELEASE: ICBA Files for Appeal on Prop Rep Injunction Ruling

VANCOUVER – The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) and Canada West Construction Union yesterday filed leave to appeal a BC Supreme Court decision against an injunction to pause the proportional representation referendum process.

On August 28th, Justice Miriam Gropper turned down ICBA’s request for an injunction to pause the referendum process until the legality of the process could be confirmed in court.

The NDP Government has been dragging its heels on defending its referendum process, taking over two months to file a response to ICBA’s challenge. “The NDP Government talks a lot about democracy and having a fair debate, but they have shown no willingness to respond in a reasonable fashion – it’s their rules, it’s their process and it’s their referendum – they need to show up. We prepared our challenge within a week, and they needed more than two months,” said Chris Gardner, president of ICBA.

ICBA first filed its concerns with the process in early July, as soon as Attorney General David Eby released the rules. “As we have said from the start, the referendum question is confusing, the process was rushed, and there was little consultation,” said Gardner. “Given that the NDP government needs so much time to defend its own law and regulations, we think the only fair and reasonable course is for the referendum to be postponed.”

ICBA’s original case against the NDP government continues on and ICBA is hopeful that the government will agree to a court date in the fall. But until then, ICBA is seeking an injunction because the government is attempting to “run out the clock” and leave the courts with little practical remedy should the ICBA prevail in court, because the referendum will already be over.

“We know the NDP Government would rather the whole proportional representation referendum proceed with little scrutiny or debate, but we believe that British Columbians deserve better than this and our democracy deserves better than this,” said Gardner. “If the NDP wants to hold a referendum, then its incumbent upon them to be fair – why not take the same approach as the former government in 2005 and 2009?”

“Changing how we elect our government requires a fair and open process with a clear question and a timeline that will allow for a robust debate. It neither fair nor democratic for the NDP Government to effectively rig the question and the process to provoke the result it wants.”

The ICBA is arguing in court that the referendum question and process is fundamentally flawed:

  • It is not consistent with the NDP Government’s own Referendum Act, which calls for “a clear statement of the majority of voters on whether or not to implement a well-defined and comprehensible new voting system”;
  • A binding referendum must be supported “by a clear majority on a clear question”;
  • It is inconsistent with sections 2(b) and 3 of the Charter, “which give British Columbians the right to meaningfully participate in a fair and comprehensible referendum process” in relation to fundamental changes to the electoral system;
  • It is inconsistent with sections 2(b) and 2(d) of the Charter, which require that “British Columbians be able to fully express themselves and debate fundamental changes to the design of the democratic system”; and,
  • The regulations unlawfully restrict freedom of expression on matters of public interest.

For the full text of ICBA’s original application for an injunction, click HERE. To read the original petition, click HERE.

TRAINING THURSDAY: Responsibilities of Joint Health and Safety Committees

Do you serve on a joint health and safety committee in your workplace? Our Responsibilities of Joint Health and Safety Committees course is here for you!
As of April 2017, all new committee members must receive eight hours of training. This course will help you fulfill that requirement.
Participants will:
– Know how to use the OHS Regulation and WC Act to access health & safety requirements;
– Explain the roles and functions of the Joint Committee and the Worker Representatives;
– Learn how to perform an incident investigation;
– Learn how to perform a formal site inspection; and
– Develop a foundation in knowledge to promote workplace health and safety; assist in ensuring the health and safety program elements are implemented; conduct and participate in Joint Committee Meetings; and work cooperatively to address workers’ health and safety concerns.
Topics covered:
– Use of WorkSafe OHS Regulation;
– Joint Health and Safety committee and workers representatives;
– OHS Program;
– Safety Inspections;
– Incident investigations;
– Refusal of unsafe work;
– How to work as a committee;
– Different types of recommendations; and
– Hazard management.
Our next session is September 21 in Burnaby. We are also holding one on October 26 in Burnaby, and October 30 in Fort St John. Register at You can also earn 8 Group A CPD Points from BC Housing!

Call for Nominations for 2018 Gord Stewart Construction Workplace Health and Safety Innovation Award

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) and WorkSafeBC are pleased to announce the 2018 Gord Stewart Construction Workplace Health and Safety Innovation Award is now open for entries from eligible ICBA members and their employees.

About the Award

The Workplace Health and Safety Innovation Award is presented annually to acknowledge individuals and companies for their efforts in the prevention of workplace incidents, injuries and illnesses. By honouring safety leaders and sharing their ideas ICBA and WorkSafeBC hope to encourage new programs, policies, and projects that improve the health and safety of workers.

The award recognizes the employee or team of employees who come up with an innovative program, policy, tool or project that demonstrates a proven accomplishment in the area of health and safety for the construction industry sector.

There is a $5,000 prize for the best submission and will be presented at the ICBA AGM Dinner on Tuesday, November 20 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.


All employees of ICBA member companies are eligible for the Annual Awards for Innovation in Workplace Health and Safety for Construction.

Click HERE for a full list of award guidelines and HERE for a submission form.

Nominations must be received by Nov. 1, 2018.