PCA urging competition bureau to investigate Ottawa Hospital expansion deal that ‘shuts out thousands’ of local construction workers

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

A complaint urging the Competition Bureau to investigate an exclusive and costly labour deal at The Ottawa Hospital was submitted last week by the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA).

The complaint centres on an exclusive labour agreement between the hospital and the Unionized Building and Construction Trades of Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec, which PCA says prohibits contractors and workers who are not affiliated with these select unions from bidding on and building the hospital’s new $2.8 billion Civic Campus.

“There’s something seriously wrong when thousands of Ottawa area construction workers and local companies have no chance to build one of the largest infrastructure projects in the city’s history,” said Karen Renkema, VP Ontario at PCA. “This is a deal that shuts out local talent, and does not provide good public value. That warrants an investigation.”

Renkema notes that competition improves productivity and lowers construction costs and “encourages contractors to innovate and put their best bid forward. However, Ottawa Hospital entered into a restrictive project labour agreement with select building trade unions – the first agreement of its kind in Ontario.

“The Ottawa Hospital’s restrictive PLA is not in the public interest,” Renkema said. “It is a clear example of exclusive dealing, tied selling and market restrictions, which run counter to the Competition Act. Local taxpayers, workers and companies deserve better.”

PCA points to a report by the Independent Montreal Economic Institute that found Ottawa Hospital’s restrictive PLA will escalate project costs by anywhere from $168 million to $525 million by 2028. It concludes that “It is unacceptable for a public entity to make taxpayers pay more by granting exclusivity to only a certain group of affiliated workers.”

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