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Schools delayed, not cancelled

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  |  Posted: Saturday, Jun 21, 2014 06:00 am

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Parents across the province, and in St. Albert too, listened intently this week to hear Infrastructure Minister Wayne Drysdale announce that the 19 remaining schools from the PC’s 2012 promise list will be delayed because they’re going to be tendered separately.

The government already spoke openly last year about a lack of interest the construction world has shown in the “public-private partnership” approach being applied in this case. The province expected numerous companies to bid on the 19-school project, complete with maintenance contracts for the next 30 years. Only one company bid and the bid was actually higher than if the government went it alone on the project.

A company pledging to build 19 schools on deadlines is a serious commitment in a province where construction companies have a variety of high paying oil patch-related work to bid on every year. In this case it was obvious the contractors, already short of staff and long on other projects to tackle, weren't interested in taking on the risks. Keep in mind that P3s come with some pretty onerous penalties for late delivery, etc.

St. Albert’s two new schools, Lois Hole Elementary and the francophone high school, will be built, however. Individual tendering means it’s very unlikely the schools will be built by 2016.

Eldorado Drive’s vacant green-space may be hosting dog-walkers and soccer games a bit longer than expected.

Harper government shows its stripes

Changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program announced by Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney Friday barely make the program palatable in Alberta.

Announcing the changes yesterday, Kenney said the TFW program has been released from its federally imposed limbo. A new rule, however, is threatening to make the entire TFW program a farce.

Quotas placed on the number of temporary foreign workers a business can have are ludicrous. Employers, even if they’re in areas suffering a labour shortage, can only have up to 10 per cent of their staff as temporary foreign workers. Service industry businesses are going to have a hard time meeting those quotas, as fast food restaurants and hotels need staff 24 hours a day.

The program never should have been suspended in the first place. Kenney, who as an Albertan, should know better, put the program for the food services industry on hold because of the “hire Canadians first” outcry emanating from Eastern Canada. The voter-rich east has little need for the program as its economies are flat, or in some cases, in decline.

But the program is vital in Alberta to ensure worker shortages are addressed, as the oil patch and its high earnings have an effect on virtually every other employer in the province.

Once again the Stephen Harper government is taking Alberta for granted. To get elected, Harper needs Ontario and Quebec, especially now that Northern Gateway has B.C. in an uproar. It appears Harper is ready to forsake his home province in an attempt to curry favour with the east. Understandable as it may be, Albertans are growing very tired of taking a backseat to Harper's politics.


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