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BC spending stimulus money on Alberta workers: letter

Money meant to stimulate the British Columbia economy as part of the Gateway project will be going to workers from Alberta, according to a letter a union local sent to provincial ministers.

“The Gateway project was intended to be part of the B.C. stimulus package, yet wages and related income taxes will be reported in Alberta by Alberta workers,” said the letter from Doug McKay, the business manager for local 258 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“This makes little sense, especially when one considers we have several companies in B.C. which are eminently qualified,” the letter said.

B.C. businesses bid on the work, a tender form the B.C. Transmission Corporation for power line work around the Port Mann bridge, but it was won by Valard Construction, a company the letter said draws its workers from Alberta.

New Democratic Party labour critic Raj Chouhan asked labour minister Murray Coell about the Sept. 14 letter during budget estimates debate yesterday.

Coell said he just received the letter a day or two ago and is looking into the matter. “I think the issue, probably, is one of tendering,” he said. “They look for the lowest bidder. So I suspect that's probably what's happened. The lowest bidder was the person or company talked about in the letter.”

Awarding the contract to a B.C. company would have kept more money in the province, McKay's letter said. “The difference in tenders would easily have been recovered through taxes, not to mention spinoff dollars to the local community, yet it seems that B.C. Transmission is only concerned with its own bottom line, not the overall creation of jobs for workers in this province.”

He added, “With a deficit that has ballooned beyond everyone's expectations, I would think that the province would do all it could to retain tax dollars for our local economy.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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