February 2020 - Page 2 of 2 - ICBA

ICBA IN THE NEWS: Construction the Unsung Hero of the Economy

From The Journal of Commerce:

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association hosted its annual CEO Breakfast at Buildex this month to highlight its wages and benefits survey and talk to industry experts about trends in the real estate market.

Construction is the unsung hero of our provincial economy. What the 250,000 men and women in construction do accounts for about 10 per cent of our economy,” said Chris Gardner, ICBA president. “It doesn’t get the kind of attention that other industries do.”

While the past five years have been some of the busiest for B.C.’s construction sector, Gardner noted some small cracks have begun to appear in the market. He noted that 40 per cent of the association’s members indicated they will be busier this year than last year – the lowest percentage the survey has seen in five years. About 50 per cent of members said they would be as busy this year as they were last.

Gardner said the interior market remains about the same as last year with Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland experiencing some softening.

“Surprisingly, in northern B.C. the confidence level is not as strong as you might expect,” said Gardner. “The challenge there is that the upstream drilling activity has not started. As of today, there are only 12 gas rigs that are operational in B.C. and that is partly because of delays in the project. So, companies have delayed their drilling activity. And that’s unfortunate because it is impacting jobs and families in northeastern B.C.

“That being said, the construction market is still very strong and healthy.”

The top issue for members remains the same, with 64 per cent of construction contractor members say they cannot find enough workers.

“This issue cuts across our entire economy,” said Gardner. “It’s not just about contractors not being able to find workers. It is in the retail sector, the hotel sector, the restaurant sector. Every sector of our economy is facing a shortage of workers. We are going over a demographic cliff in Canada.”

Many of the trades experiencing shortages are crucial to construction work, including masons, drywallers, iron workers and fabricators. Gardner explained that this has put enormous upward pressure on wages, with the average hourly wage of all trades jumping from $28.32 in 2018 to a projected $32.60 in 2021.

Gardner added that the province has made the situation more dire with the community benefits agreement, which he said excludes open shop workers from major projects like the Pattullo Bridge.

“It’s not fair, it’s not right and it is discriminatory,” Gardner.

The event then switched gears as Gardner sat down for a conversation with Bob Rennie and Andrew Ramlo of the Rennie Group to discuss the current state of the real estate market and the economic and demographic factors that are driving it.

Ramlo explained that as baby boomers age out of the workforce and start to have increased healthcare costs, the population is not growing enough to fill the gaps. The federal government is increasing its immigration targets to try and fill these gaps so there are enough taxpayers to cover these costs.

Rennie noted that later in the decade immigration, despite its political challenges, will need to increase even more.

“My concern 25 years from now is who will be my lawyer, who is going to bring me a bedpan and who is going to pay taxes without immigration?” Rennie said. “You are going to see fractured political parties start to go towards anti immigration policies like Trump. And yes, you get zero unemployment, but you don’t have a sustainable economy.”

Ramlo explained that much of the immigrant population in B.C. will go into the lower mainland. He predicts by 2041, the lower mainland’s population will increase by 1.01 million and require a net of 450,000 new homes to be built.

“We have a crisis coming with all these jobs and without the supply,” said Rennie.

Gardner added that government often makes it more difficult to get supply by increasing red tape and taxes for those trying to develop it.

Ramlo explained that while some have speculated the aging population is poised to free up tens of thousands of homes in the coming decade, it won’t nearly be enough to meet demand.

Rennie noted that there must be ways to increase the amount of housing by taking away some of the political risk of density. He suggested offering $10,000 per door for any application that is approved within 12 months, and $15,000 per door for rental projects. He explained that this revenue could give municipalities the political will they need to build supply.

“We are not going to satisfy the supply chain and keep up with jobs growth and immigration unless we really shrink that approval process,” said Rennie.

TRAINING THURSDAY: How to be a Better Foreman

Many great trades people take a foreman position and fail. Not for lack of skills or drive but simply for lack of guidance on how to be a great foreman. Our How To Be A Better Foreman course is here to help give you the tools you need to succeed in your role.

You’ll learn the fundamentals of field leadership, organization, crew morale, efficiency and productivity in our one-day course. Here’s what’s covered:

  • Understanding why and how many foremen fail
  • How the foreman’s role has changed
  • Dealing with workplace conflict without being a jerk
  • Learning how to anticipate production and jobsite issues
  • Understanding general and subcontractor dynamics
  • Understanding your role as a leader
  • Understand how you play a major role in increasing jobsite productivity

You’ll also earn 7.5 CPD Points from BC Housing, and 1 Gold Seal Credit!

We’re offering the course in Victoria on March 6, in Langley on April 24, and in Prince George on May 29. We sell out this course nearly every time we offer it so don’t miss your chance to register at www.icba.ca/courses.

ICBA NEWS: Two More Reed Awards for our Advocacy Work

Our trophy cabinet here at ICBA is getting full!

Last night in Atlanta, Georgia, ICBA’s Massey Tunnel replacement campaign won two more Reed Awards – for best Canadian Use of Outdoor Advertising, and Best International Use of Outdoor Advertising.

Our winning campaign paired our very successful Massey Tunnel 60th birthday party stunt with a billboard that ran near the tunnel for several weeks. This tied in a major Facebook campaign – including two parody song videos watched 200,000+ times, and a direct mail piece.

Over the past three years, ICBA has won 11 Reed Awards, named after Campaigns & Elections founder and campaign marketing pioneer Stanley Foster Reed, embody excellence in political campaigning, campaign management, political consulting and political design, grassroots & advocacy. Reed Award winners represent the very best the political campaign industry has to offer.

“Getting designated as a Reed Award Finalist is extraordinarily difficult,” said Shane D’Aprile, Co-Publisher, Campaigns & Elections. “Thousands of entries compete, but very few make the cut. That’s how it should be in the most exacting award the campaign industry has. So when you encounter a Reed Award Finalist you know one thing for certain, they produce work that’s head and shoulders above the competition.”

Learn more about our six 2019 Reed Awards HERE.

Learn more about our three 2018 Reed Awards HERE.

IN THE NEWS: Vancouver Sun’s Malcolm Parry on ICBA CEO Breakfast

From The Vancouver Sun, Feb. 22, 2020:

Town Talk: Bob Rennie cues builders on B.C.’s ‘demographic crunch’

Climate change, aging population biggest challenges facing the economy

Here readying an at-home dinner for 70 art collectors and professionals, Bob Rennie later addressed building contractors on the “demographic crunch” he said will add “another Vancouver, Burnaby, New West and Coquitlam.” MALCOLM PARRY / PNG

CRYSTAL BALLING: Realtor Bob Rennie and his Rennie Group’s intelligence VP, Andrew Ramlo, helped Independent Contractors and Business Association conventioneers digest their bacon and eggs recently. The association president, Chris Gardner, had already told breakfasting colleagues that trade workers’ wages will increase by 5.2 per cent this year, that 54 per cent of contractors can’t obtain enough workers, and that only the Slovak Republic is slower than B.C. among 35 jurisdictions issuing building permits. Rennie and Ramlo’s “demographic crunch” projections included Canadian immigration admissions surging to 350,000 by 2021 (B.C.’s share to be 15 per cent). An aging population and climate change will be the economy’s greatest challenges, they said. Meanwhile, housing the Lower Mainland’s one million more residents by 2040 will require “another Vancouver, Burnaby, New West and Coquitlam.” And though, in constant dollars, millennials’ median household after-tax income exceeds Generation X’s and Baby Boomers’ by 32 per cent, their debt-to-after-tax-income is almost twice as high at 216 per cent. Rennie’s problem: “Twenty years from now, who’s going to be my lawyer, bring my bedpan and pay my taxes?”

ICBA OP-ED: Slow permit processes undermine Canada’s competitiveness

The following op-ed by ICBA President Chris Gardner first appeared on The Orca, Feb. 25, 2020.

It’s a powerpoint slide I often show in ICBA meetings, and it always draws an all-too-knowing groan from listeners: Canada ranks 34 out of 35 OECD countries in the length of time it takes to get a general construction project approved. It’s a telling and embarrassing statistic for a G7 economy.

It takes nearly 250 days to get a permit in Canada – three times (168 days) longer than our competitors in the United States. In the OECD, only the Slovak Republic takes longer to approve construction projects.

A dysfunction has settled into our governments that is leading to serious economic failures, stifling the creation of family-supporting jobs, distorting our local housing markets, and making it nearly impossible to get the kind of infrastructure built that we need to increase our competitiveness.

Canada is now being labelled a place where it is simply too difficult to get things done, or worse, a place where regulatory approvals are not worth the paper they are printed on. The result: businesses and investors taking their ideas, their people, and their capital elsewhere.

Over the past two years, some of the largest energy companies in the world have passed over Canada for more investor-friendly jurisdictions. The cost to Canada has been, according to RBC, more than $100 billion in lost investment and tens of thousands of lost jobs.

Delays add direct financing costs to builders which are passed along to owners, which are either taxpayers, home buyers and end-users. It also slows investment, job creation and construction work by making the process unnecessarily confusing and complex.

It’s not just the private sector that suffers. The delays caused by more red tape, the demands to try and please absolutely everyone who has an opinion on a project – whether a genuine stakeholder or not – and the reluctance of politicians to make tough decisions, have significant implications for government projects too.

A slow permit process makes infrastructure and community projects more expensive, meaning governments either have to tax or borrow more to build or delay building necessary infrastructure.

Think of the process involved in building the Site C clean energy project in northeastern B.C. It was April 19, 2010, when then-Premier Gordon Campbell decided to move forward with Site C, owned by the province’s electrical utility. He hoped to have it up and running by 2020.

But it took nearly five years to finally get all the permits and permissions to start construction. Then it got bogged down in court. By the May 2017 election, more than $1.75 billion had been spent, and the 2020 completion date was distant memory.

When the BC NDP government took over, they delayed Site C further with yet another review. Now completion is expected in 2024 – at a price tag far higher than originally expected at a time when BC prepares for more electrical demand form vehicles, home heating, LNG plants, and other uses, as we transition (slowly) from fossil fuels. And, this was a clean energy project.  Traditional industrial and responsible resource development projects such as Energy East, Northern Gateway, LNG Canada and Teck’s Frontier project face almost insurmountable opposition.

Obviously Site C is a larger, more complex project than what governments usually build. But even small projects are being delayed by unnecessary red tape and politicians’ fear of making decisions. It can take more than a year for communities to do even a simple project like install speed bumps in school zones, as consultation processes drag on and on.

The BC NDP took power in 2017 in part due to a promise to eliminate school portables in Surrey, the province’s fastest growing city. Three years later, there are more portables than ever.

The Horgan Government also promised to build 114,000 units of affordable housing, mainly in the Lower Mainland. Three years later, they have delivered less than 2 per cent of that total, and their municipal affairs minister lists slow permitting processes as a reason why.

Community centres, road upgrades, sewer plants, schools, hospitals: even minor delays on these projects end up costing taxpayers money and longer-than-necessary inconveniences. It’s time all orders of government have a long conversation about how to speed up construction permits – the problem has become too expensive to ignore.

Whether it’s a new seniors centre, a townhome complex, high-rise or a new road, as soon as a project is proposed the forces of “no” rally for the status quo and “more consultation.” Traffic, noise, views and quality of life are trotted out at council meeting after council meeting wrapped up in a dystopian narrative that sends local councils running in full retreat.

In the middle of a full-blown housing affordability crisis, one might think city halls would be focused on increasing supply, reducing red tape, and making it easier to bring housing stock on the market faster in an effort to reduce the pressure on the prices of homes.

However, in communities across B.C., local councils make decisions every week that makes it more difficult to buy affordable homes. They impose red tape and regulations that make it harder and more costly to build homes. It is a fact that in many communities, it now takes longer to get a project approved and permitted than it does to build it. This is a stunning indictment of the ability of unchecked local councils to make life more unaffordable for homebuyers.

If we do not get more responsible – and faster – decision-making from government, the risk of failing an entire generation of young people seeking local jobs and affordable housing will become a harsh reality.

TRAINING THURSDAY: Ground Disturbance Level II®

Do you independently perform ground disturbance, supervise a ground disturbance, and issue and receive ground permits in BC? We have the course for you!

Our Ground Disturbance Level II course is BC-specific and ensures that Level II® personnel are familiar with, and fully understand, all the regulations and variances involved when a ground disturbance takes place. The course is presented in a logical sequence – from the pre-planning stage to the actual dig – and highlights the ‘musts’ compared to the ‘shoulds’.


  • Clarify the sources when searching for underground facilities
  • Providing notification to facility owner
  • Receiving owner notification
  • Approvals/Crossing Agreements
  • Regulations
  • Creating the Plot Plan/Site Drawing
  • Line locating
  • Exposure
  • Back-fill inspections
  • Permits and pre-job meetings
  • Emergency Response Plans
  • Contacting an underground facility

Our instructor has been assessed to the BCCGA Ground Disturbance 201 Standard and is endorsed by the BCCGA & ABCGA. Level II® is the standardized program recognized by industry regulators. Certification is valid for 3 years.

Plus, you’ll earn 15 CPD Points from BC Housing and 0.6 CEUs toward your Environmental Operators Certification Program certification.

Our next session is March 25 in Burnaby, followed by May 6 in Prince George, May 8 in Fort St John, May 28 in Victoria, and June 17 in Langley! To register, visit www.icba.ca/courses.