Projects & Infrastructure
Need for more housing faster places incredible pressure on contractors
March 2, 2023 By Don Horne
Let’s talk budget. Infrastructure budget, to be exact.
This week British Columbia’s Finance Minister Katrine Conroy introduced the first budget under Premier David Eby, and like their counterparts in Ontario, continue to put the need for affordable housing front and centre.
The emphasis on housing is well-founded. British Columbians need more of it, and they need it to be cheaper.
But, to quote the Minister, “brick by brick and board by board,” we are putting B.C.’s contractors into an unsustainable financial position by continuing to talk about building things without taking reasonable steps to ensure that the builders will be paid.
You can access the full budget statement here.
The predicament of many contractors is like that of B.C.’s overworked nurses. To quote the Minister, “they’ve never been under more stress” and “The status quo is not good enough.”
Like nurses, contractors are called upon to work more and work longer because they’re essential and there aren’t enough of them. But with this crucial difference: the nurses know they will be paid.
Investment in infrastructure is becoming a catch-22 for all but B.C.’s largest contractors, whether open shop or union. Without complementary measures to mitigate the extreme financial risks of late or non-payment, particularly in this climate of escalating costs, a construction company could go broke building their share of the $4.2 billion budgeted for housing.
To quote contractors, they are not yet certain that government “has our back,” but they state that they’re open to convincing. The proof, in the form of prompt payment legislation, can’t come fast enough.
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