Local leaders applaud Site C contract news as trades group blasts decision

Local business and political leaders say they are pleased with a decision to award a main civil works contract to a consortium that includes a company with an office in Charlie Lake

On Wednesday, the province and BC Hydro announced that Peace River Hydro Partners—which includes Petrowest, made up of nine amalgamated firms, including a Fort St. John company—would take on the main civil works project.

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“It’s good to see that we have some local knowledge working on that project,” said Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman. “It’s very significant on a project of this size.”

North Peace MLA Pat Pimm was at a forum hosted by the Northeast B.C. Resource Municipalities Coalition when the decision was announced. While the session was about the natural gas industry, Pimm made a point of going up to the stage to inform those in attendance about the decision.

“It’s a very, very great day for Fort St. John and our locals all day,” he said.

Tony Zabinsky, president of the Fort St. John and District Chamber of Commerce, also applauded the decision.

“Moving forward, we’re sure that, as a company based in town, they’ll be reaching out in town to local subcontractors in working on Site C,” he said.

According to BC Hydro's website, the consortium could employ subcontractors to help carry out the work.

The chamber has not taken a stance on the Site C project.

“What we’re really for is… (getting) our local companies involved in the region, to be able to either bid or have the accessibility to bid for some of that work,” Zabinsky said.

The estimated $1.5-billion contract has yet to formally signed, but Site C spokesman Dave Conway said the contract would likely be valued higher than the sticker price. It’s not clear whether Peace River Hydro Partners put in the lowest bid for the project, and Conway would not comment directly on the question.

“(Peace River Hydro Partners) offered competitive pricing and the procurement process reconfirmed the project budget for the largest Site C contract, while ensuring best value for our customers,” Conway said.

“We looked at project management (including key personnel and experience, safety, quality and environment), construction management (including construction schedule, means and methods and plans for specific the scope of work), and financial capacity, among other considerations.”



On Wednesday, the BC Building Trades group called the move “a bad decision for B.C. and for B.C. workers.”

The group said it is disappointed in the decision to go with a consortium, as it does not include any of its affiliates or workers.

Tom Sigurdson, the group’s executive director, said that BCBT affiliates offered diversity and apprenticeship opportunities that will not be brought to Site C.

“Skilled and experienced B.C. dam builders will be sitting idle while BC Hydro builds Site C with less experienced workers, many from outside BC and, we expect, many from offshore,” he said.

“This is not acceptable to our 39,000 members and we wonder if it is acceptable to Premier Clark and Ministers Bennett and Bond?”

The province said the Construction Maintenance and Allied Workers and the Christian Labour Association of Canada will represent unionized workers on-site.

BC Building Trades represents about 13 trade unions in B.C. and the Yukon. It filed a civil suit in March against BC Hydro for terms within its request for proposals that would have prevented union members from going on strike during construction of the dam or recruit other non-union members into unions.

The suit was later withdrawn in May.


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