Spending More and Getting Less
The impacts of restricted tendering
Kitchener, ON—On December 6, industry leaders, politicians, business owners, and union representatives came together at an event hosted by the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce to discuss the impact of restricted tendering on municipalities and taxpayers.
In Ontario, an unintended legal loophole causes some municipalities, utilities, and school boards to be considered construction employers. Should they become unionized by a building trades union, their workers are covered by an existing construction collective agreement. That agreement says work procured by that public entity can only be awarded to other contractors who are affiliated with that same building trades union. The Region of Waterloo is one of these “construction employers” for the purpose of the Labour Relations Act.
Brian Djikema of Cardus, a public policy think tank, has done extensive research into restricted tendering and presented some of his most recent findings at the event. His research shows that in municipalities with restricted tendering, the number of bidders on public projects—everything from arenas to libraries to waste water treatment plants—plummets while costs increase dramatically.
The issue of closed tendering is not only one of cost, but of fairness to Ontario’s workers.
Currently, 30 percent of Ontario’s taxpayers live in a city or region that is bound by these closed tendering rules. These regions are paying a premium for public infrastructure in an era where we face infrastructure deficits and tight public budgets.
Additionally, these rules mean that qualified workers and contractors are shut out of work that their tax dollars pay for.
“A carpenter who’s not a member of a specific union in the Region of Waterloo isn’t able to earn his or her property taxes back by building an arena or a bridge,” says Andrew Regnerus, CLAC Ontario construction coordinator.
CLAC has been advocating for fair tendering for years and will continue to do so to ensure all qualified Ontarians have the chance to work on public projects and get the best value for their tax dollars.