Union activist, NDP donor appointed to board overseeing union closed-shop agreement

NDP director says big money out of politics

A B.C. labour union activist who personally or with affiliated unions gave $130,000 to the NDP over 13 years is now on the provincial board overseeing public construction projects now restricted to union-only workers.

Gary Kroeker, a retired International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) business manager and past BC Federation of Labour board member, is one of seven appointees to the BC Infrastructure Benefits Inc. board (BCIB). Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena made the announcement Jan. 2.

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Kroeker’s union represents construction workers working as heavy equipment operators, mechanics and surveyors, workers employed in major construction projects.

Kroeker could not be reached for comment.

BCIB is the Crown corporation overseeing the Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) announced in July making B.C. a union-only shop for large public infrastructure projects like bridges and roads. And, it’s a case the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade has warned will inflate costs of large projects.

BCIB was established by the NDP in July 2018 to build the new Pattullo Bridge and projects within the Trans-Canada Four-Laning program.

Its mandate is to lead the recruitment, hiring and co-ordination of skilled labour for these projects, in addition to human resources, employee relations, identifying training needs and performance measurement.

NDP provincial director Raj Sihota said in a statement to Glacier Media that Kroeker’s appointment was based on merit.

She said the same of the appointment of construction and engineering executive Clyde Scollan, president of the Construction Labour Relations Association of BC.

Scollan personally, or construction, guiding, labour relations and other organizations with which he is connected as a principal officer, gave the BC Liberal Party $208,100. Just prior to 2013 election the NDP was heavily favoured to win, the association gave $22,100 to NDP.

Scollan is on vacation until Jan. 14 and could not be contacted.

Sihota said the appointment on merit was “demonstrated today by the appointment of board members with significant construction experience, including BC Liberal supporters.”

According to the NDP, the situation has little to do with political contributions.

And, Sihota said, the government has already “delivered on its promise to get big money out of our politics.”

The NDP has banned union and corporate donations to political parties and limited individual donations to $1,200. And, it has proposed public subsidies for parties.

The NDP pledged to remove big money from politics in the 2017 election campaign. And, it signed the May 2017 Confidence and Supply Agreement, through which the BC Green Party supports the NDP, which states that the government would “eliminate any other means by which individuals or entities may wield undue influence over government.”

The other appointees are: Allan Donald Bruce as chair, Roberta Ellis, Kirsten Ragnhild Wilson, Michael Alan Bonshor and Anita Kaur Atwal.

A Kirsten Wilson gave the NDP $650 and the Liberals $1,250 respectively in February and August 2017. That Wilson is also listed as a principal of the Jack Cewe general contracting firm which donated which gave the Liberals $500 in March 2017.

Kroeker’s union also gave $11,000 to the Liberals.

Sihota said the donation values show the board is balanced.

Liberal transportation and infrastructure critic Jordan Sturdy supported Sihota’s argument appointments to the board were made on merit.

He said the CBA the board will oversee is the contentious issue.

“I fail to see how this group is going to provide value for the taxpayers of British Columbia,” Sturdy said.

Neither Premier John Horgan nor Trevena were available for comment.

© Copyright Bowen Island Undercurrent

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