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2012 Year in Review

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by Journal Of Commerce

Construction companies in the Lower Mainland of B.C. celebrated the new year with a new tax.

January: Emissions tax and mega projects start

Construction companies in the Lower Mainland of B.C. celebrated the new year with a new tax.

Metro Vancouver implemented a new emissions bylaw for non-road diesel engines. The new bylaw is being phased in over a number of years and started by targeting older engines (Tier 0) with a $4 per horsepower fee that will rise and include newer engines in coming years. Despite the lack of an official grace period, as of early December, no tickets for violations had yet been issued.

A number of massive projects received government approvals and started construction in the first month of the year.

BC Hydro moved forward with two new generating stations for the Mica Dam, construction of the Evergreen Line started and the oilsands were booming with Imperial Oil announcing an $8.9 billion upgrade of the still unfinished Kearl oilsands facility.

Work continued on the Port Mann Bridge/Highway 1 Project. U.S. approval of the Keystone Pipeline was a political hot potato.

The first, but sadly not last, story of the year on a flagger being struck was published.

February: Corruption probe rocks Quebec construction

The scope and impact of the Charbonneau Commission, looking at corruption in Quebec’s construction industry, started to take shape.

However, an $80,000 federal study into organized crime’s connection to the construction industry in other provinces, including B.C., met some resistance as only six out of the 35 organizations contacted by the authors were willing to speak.

Another scandal came to light, when SNC-Lavalin fired two executives involved with bribery allegations.

The oilsands continued its frenzied growth with the Cold Lake operations for Imperial Oil slated for a three phase, $2 billion expansion.

Renewable Energy Systems Canada Inc. was hired as the main contractor for the Halkirk Wind Project, which was intended to become the largest wind farm in Alberta. The project is located near Stettler, northeast of Calgary.

March: Western Canada leads the nation in growth

A number of economic forecasts predicted that Western Canada would lead the nation in growth, as the resource sector boomed.

Along with economic growth in Alberta’s oilsands, northern B.C., Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the shortage of skilled workers became a growing issue.

Northern B.C. construction contractors held job fairs in the Lower Mainland in an attempt to woo workers north.

The Canadian Construction Association and a group of Alberta businesses teamed up to push for immigration reform to deal with the shortage of skilled labour.

The federal government listened to this group and similar pleas from other associations and companies.

In December, it unveiled a new federal initiative to create a separate and streamlined program to target skilled tradespersons for immigration to Canada.

April: Ireland a potential source of skilled workers

The search for skilled labour went farther afield as the British Columbia Construction Association led a small delegation from Western Canada on a trip to Ireland to examine the apprenticeship system.

The goal was to facilitate the recruitment of skilled workers. To their surprise, thousands of Irish workers lined up for the chance to work in Canada.

The recently unveiled federal budget promised to implement regulatory changes to streamline the environmental assessment process for major projects.

The City of Calgary mulled new bylaws after there were several incidents of debris falling from buildings under construction.

Kinder Morgan moved forward with plans for a proposed $5 billion pipeline expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline system, which carries crude oil from Alberta’s oilsands to Vancouver.

May: Temporary Foreign Worker program changes

Industry reaction was mixed after the federal government reduced the time it takes for employers to hire Temporary Foreign Workers.

The construction of multi-billion dollar liquid natural gas (LNG) export facility was proposed for Kitimat, B.C. The proposal was led by Shell. Encana and its partners, as well as BC LNG Cooperative had each already proposed their own export facilities.

The single largest highway construction project in Alberta’s history started with the awarding of a $1.81 billion public-private partnership contract for the Northeast Anthony Henday Drive project.

Flaggers and contractors in B.C. were surprised to learn that legislation that doubled fines for speeding in construction zones didn’t exist.

June: Dangerous Alberta highway get provincial advisor

Aspecial provincial advisor was appointed to give recommendations to improve safety and the speed zones for the twinning of Highway 63, near Fort McMurray, Alberta.

The dangerous roadway garnered public attention and outrage after seven people were killed in a head-on collision.

The federal government announced plans for roundtable discussions across the country to extend a long-term plan for investment in infrastructure beyond 2014. Nine regional roundtables were planned.

The centre span of the new Port Mann Bridge was completed in June. Peter Kiewit Sons Co. and Flatiron Constructors Canada Limited were awarded a $2.46 billion fixed-price contract by the B.C. government to design and build the new bridge and to widen Highway 1.

July: New law attempts to curb metal theft

The Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act came into effect in July. It was intended to curb metal theft by putting greater scrutiny on those who buy and sell scrap metal in B.C.

The results of a survey revealed that the worst labour shortage in the province’s history had hit Saskatchewan’s open shop contractors.

Many companies reported that they were unable to hire journeymen and had trouble retaining employees.

Shell Canada received approval from the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) for the construction of Alberta’s first carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility. The $1.35 billion Quest CCS project is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emission from Shell’s Scotford Upgrader.

Construction on the US$3.3 billion Kitimat aluminum smelter modernization project was in full swing with 1,600 workers expected on the project in 2012.

Construction crews worked around the clock clearing debris and repairing several highways after storms caused major flooding in the Interior of B.C.

Bill Everitt became the fourth chief operating officer in the history of the Southern Interior construction Association (SICA).

August: Manitoba looks for full disclosure on P3s

The Government of Manitoba planned to pass a law, which requires the disclosure of information about public works projects built under a public-private partnership (P3) model.

The proposed legislation would require the provincial government and municipalities, wishing to enter into P3 agreements for large public projects, to follow a number of detailed steps before entering into an agreement, including publicly reporting the terms of the contract.

The Alberta government decided to move forward with plans to accelerate the twinning of Highway 63 to improve safety on the dangerous roadway. The announcement included plans to fast-track three separate projects using a traditional procurement method.

The Saskatchewan government started an initiative to restructure labour legislation in the province.

September: National crane safety council established

The Canadian crane safety council was launched in Edmonton. The Canadian Hoisting & Rigging Safety Council was the result of efforts to harmonize regulations and credentials in B.C. and Alberta.

The B.C. government finally committed to doubling fines for speeding in construction zones, after passing off responsibility for the missing legislation between ministries for months.

The B.C. Construction Association headed back to Ireland to find skilled workers after a successful trip earlier in the year. The trip also included a visit to Scotland to evaluate the apprenticeship system.

The first-ever Canadian Infrastructure Report Card was released. It assesses the condition of four asset categories of municipal infrastructure: drinking-water systems; wastewater and stormwater networks; and municipal roads.

October: Billion dollar mine looks for public feedback

A proposed billion dollar copper and gold mine in central B.C. entered the public comment stage. The New Prosperity Mine would be near Williams Lake. The open pit mine had already met with opposition from Aboriginal and environmental groups.

The B.C. government floated the idea of replacing the 56-year-old George Massey Tunnel in Metro Vancouver.

One province over, a timeline and plan to accelerate the twinning of much of the rest of Highway 63 in Fort McMurray was announced.

In response to the tragic death of a young flagger in Saskatchewan, the provincial government announced plans to triple the fine for drivers caught speeding in construction zones as well as authorizing the use of photo radar.

SNC-Lavalin was announced as the preferred proponent for the $1.4 billion Evergreen Line Rapid Transit Project in Metro Vancouver.

November: Journal of Commerce unveils new look and logo

The 101-year-old Journal of Commerce and it’s parent company, Reed Construction Data, unveiled its new masthead and logos in November.

TransCanada is partnering with a state-owned Chinese company to build the proposed $3 billion Grand Rapids Pipeline project, which will transport both crude oil and diluent between Fort McMurray and Edmonton, Alberta.

The president of the Saskatchewan Construction Association, Michael Fougere, was elected mayor of Regina.

North West Redwater Partnership decided to move forward with the construction of a $15 billion bitumen upgrader near Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta.

Two major construction unions launched a legal challenge to revoke hundreds of work permits that were issued to temporary foreign workers (TFW) from China, for a coal mine in northeastern B.C. The unions took issue with the Labour Market Opinions issued for the Murray River Project.

December: Immigration stream for skilled workers unveiled

A number of construction leaders applauded a new federal government initiative to create a separate and streamlined program that will target skilled tradespersons for immigration to Canada. Details of the new Federal Skilled Trades Program were announced on Dec. 10.

Construction of the proposed $1.5 billion dollar Western Alberta transmission Line is proceeding. It will extend about 350 km from Genesee, west of Edmonton, to the Langdon area east of Calgary.

Bill C-377, a private member’s bill was passed in the House of Commons by a vote of 147 to 135. The bill will require unions and other labour groups in Canada to disclose annual reports on spending, salaries and other political activities. Bill C-377 still needs to be passed by the senate.

Keith Sashaw, president of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association, announced that he was stepping down after 12 years to take a job with the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies B.C.

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