The Western Journal 2012 - (Page 19)

UPDATES from British Columbia L ast year I cautiously wrote, “This increased work should begin to show up in the latter half of 2011.” I think some may well ask, ‘So where is it?’ It turns out I was correct in hedging my remarks by using should rather than will. Some parts of the industry truly have begun to improve, particularly in the industrial projects in the north western region around Kitimat. Underway in 2011 or soon to start this year are the Kitimat Liquid Natural Gas Terminal ($3 billion), Schaft Creek Porphyry Copper-Gold Mine ($3 billion), the Kitimat Aluminum Smelter Expansion ($2.5 billion), the Kitimat to Summit Lake Pipeline ($1.1 billion) and the Forest Kerr Hydroelectric Project ($700 million). All of this is occurring in an area where jobs disappeared annually for 5-6 years. Many contractors had good reason to feel optimistic – it’s just that in other areas of the province and in other construction sectors, new work has been tougher to find. In 2012 the chatter is still very positive. This mood, however, is not reflected in the most recent modest growth predictions of the government’s forecasters. In February, the B.C. Economic Forecast Council reported that “it expects B.C.’s economy to post 2.2 per cent growth in 2012, the same rate it predicted two months prior at its annual meeting. The council slightly reduced its 2013 forecast to 2.5 per cent, down from 2.6 per cent. The forecast average for the 2014-16 period remains the same at 2.7 per cent. The 14-member Economic Forecast Council presents forecasts for B.C.’s economic growth as part of the Province’s annual budget process.”[Source:] The residential sector likewise has dimmed its expectations: “Moderate employment growth, a more gradual increase in population and above average standing inventories will act as a governor on new home construction this year. Housing starts in the province are forecast to decline 5.1 per cent to 25,000 units in 2012. However, less pronounced expansion of the housing stock in 2012 will give way to a forecast 11.6 per cent increase to 27,900 units in 2013 as a gap between household formations and new home completions emerges late in the year.”[Source: CMHC, BCREA Forecast] Economic growth predictions have been shrinking throughout the year. From a robust 3.3 per cent predicted increase just over a year ago to the now 2.2 per cent; a bubble in housing prices in selected markets giving way to negative housing starts with improvements expected by year’s end. From this desk over the years, I’ve suggested that the members are still the best indicators of what is to come. New construction work is on everyone’s tongue and the questions remain how much, and when? MCA British Columbia Events on the Web Visit Another old saw we keep playing is the dire warning of skills shortages and the absence of a long-term skilled labour supply. Again, members say they just don’t see this happening – yet – on a wide scale. Shortages most talked about are for management and supervisory employees. This should surprise no one and perhaps this is the proverbial “canary in the coal mine.” Trade skills are essential on the jobsite and nothing progresses without them. Recently, it has become customary to give greater responsibility to lead hands, including making 4th year apprentices foreman-superintendents. But how do you train management and superintendents? How do you infuse a BCIT construction grad with 20 years of field supervision? There is no fast track to life experience. Your association gathers and promotes management training from all quarters: locally at MCABC, nationally from CMCEF, and internationally from MCA America. Yet several times over the past few years courses are organized and then cancelled due to poor registrations. When we ask why, the answers are typically either cost or “we can’t spare the time away from the job.” Something’s got to give. While B.C.’s unemployment rate moved down in January 2012, dropping to 6.9 per cent (seasonally adjusted), there were fewer jobs available in construction (-1.6 per cent). This is at a time when the overall population continues to grow, now approaching 4.6 million. British Columbia is clearly still attracting new residents and appears to be providing the jobs to support them. A recent presentation to our Vancouver chapter meeting by CBRE’s Mark Renzoni demonstrates there is strong interest in commercial real estate in urban BC. Mark reported that Grade A properties listed for sale are attracting four to six interested bidders, which clearly bodes well for new commercial construction, both office and retail. Enough about the economy: In the midst of all this activity MCABC continues to be a work in progress. Our strategic plan guides us in preparation for a future both in the services to members, and in managing the uncertainties of our political and economic landscape. We converse regularly with government through an active lobbying presence in Victoria and with select municipalities. We have added to our education offerings with both local and CMCEF programs, and continue to explore the opportunities of afforded to us through partnerships with affiliated associations. This year we are investigating the creation of a Green Chamber of Commerce, modelled on a U.S. example, looking for partners in the business and educational community. Affiliation with businesses with a sustainable future outlook are viewed as prospective clients of an increasingly “green” mechanical contracting sector. Those conscientious energy conscious design options (including retrofits) that were earlier interpreted as “more work for the mechanical sector” continue to remain attractive. Perhaps a more proactive effort on the part of this association may be the way to stimulate more interest. ■ 19 Mechanical Contractors Associations of Alberta, B.C., Manitoba & Saskatchewan 2012

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Western Journal 2012

MCA Canada Message
Alberta Message
British Columbia Message
Manitoba Message
Saskatchewan Message
Alberta Update
British Columbia Update
Manitoba Update
Saskatchewan Update
World Plumbing Day
Victim of Its Own Success
First of Its Kind in Canada
A New Approach: The Future of the Construction Sector Council
Protecting One’s Right to Timely Payment
Clean Energy Pays Big Dividends to Environment and Bottom Line
Index to Advertisers

The Western Journal 2012