What about construction competition?

Author: Paul de Jong

Prime Minister Trudeau recently tweeted that “we’ve cut the cost of cell phone bills in half since 2019, in part by increasing competition.”

While this may come as a surprise to many, imagine for a minute, if our elected officials were just as focused on making sure Canada’s construction sector was far more competitive.

 Think about the billions in cost savings.

 If the City of Toronto allowed open tendering, billions of dollars in construction work would no longer be awarded to the same group of companies year after year. Many highly respected companies wouldn’t be prevented from bidding on public projects because their workers are not affiliated with the “right” unions. Instead, all qualified companies would have an equal opportunity to bid and build city projects.

 A competitive tendering process has major benefits for companies, workers and taxpayers. The more bids there are, the greater the competition. According to a report by the independent Cardus think tank, Toronto could save $347 million annually, through fair and open tendering.

 Look at it this way: if Toronto council supported construction competition, this year’s hefty tax hike would not have been necessary. Council would also have had additional funding to go towards any number of priority projects, from improving transit service to building more community housing.

Instead, Toronto chooses to be the only municipality in Ontario, that restricts bidding on city construction work to companies affiliated with select unions.

If B.C.’s NDP government allowed a competitive tendering process, as many as 75 percent of the province’s construction workers would no longer have to switch their union membership in order to work on key public projects. Billions in construction work would no longer be funnelled to the province’s favoured unions, resulting in sizable savings on taxpayer funded construction projects.

Each year, massive amounts of funding is committed to building infrastructure, from widening major highways to expanding transit and health care facilities. But all too often taxpayers are not getting good value on projects built using their tax dollars. That’s because elected officials prefer to cater to special interest groups, even at the expense of their own constituents.

This has to change, starting from the top. If the Trudeau government believes so firmly in competition, it should apply fair and open tendering principles consistently to all federal, as well as federal provincial-infrastructure projects. This would help encourage every province and municipality to get behind open tendering, and its taxpayer benefits.

Canada’s Competition Bureau has noted that competitiveness is on the decline in this country. Governments that are looking for real answers to affordability, will achieve it by ensuring more sectors of Canada’s economy are competitive, especially construction.