Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

UPDATED: Fort McMurray Construction Association still frustrated by Ministry silence

Canadian Contractor

“Nobody wants to meet with us” FMCA President tells Canadian Contractor

The evolving story of Fort McMurray has been updated.
An exclusive interview with Alberta’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade Deron Bilous
Contracts now being awarded to local contractors and businesses

Plans for rebuilding fire-ravaged Fort McMurray, Alberta continue but their local construction association still has no word regarding if, how and when their members will be able to particulate in the cleanup of their own city.

No response from either the Premier or the Minister responsible
“We have still not heard back from the Ministry of Forestry as yet,” Charles Iggulden, president of the Fort McMurray Construction Association, told Canadian Contractor.  “We did get a call from some junior assistant from the Ministry of Economic Development, but we’ve made no progress at all.” Iggulden had written earlier this month to Premier Rachel Notley and Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier. (Numerous attempts to contact the Ministry by Canadian Contractor were also ignored)

13221470_877079962438338_3395570939608416852_n“It’s hard to meet these guys at all one-on-one. It’s really frustrating. We have a solution for them, we can save them money, yet nobody wants to meet with us,” Iggulden said. In the meantime some work is proceeding. “There are some fire breaks and so on but they won’t allow contractors to come in and get their businesses up and running again.”

Iggulden himself had to close the FMCA’s downtown office due to the evacuation, and has been forced to operate out of a field office in nearby Bruderheim, Alberta.

Registry blamed for the situation
The problems stem from an annual registry of approved contractors maintained by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Iggulden told Canadian Contractor.

“Every year there’s a registry of contractors who are available for fires and things like that. But our membership was busy at the time, and our membership won’t register if they’ve can’t deliver on the jobs when they happen.”

The economy was booming in Fort McMurray up until the oil price decline in late 2015 started to impact locally. The fire added instant misery. But by then it was too late to register and the FMCA was rebuffed when they re-approached the Ministry. “They weren’t very polite about it either,” said Iggulden.

“We want to give them the option of saving money,” said Iggulden. “We probably have 2,000 staff and people available to build who would be available. Part of the work in Fort McMurray is rebuilding businesses that have been damaged and the jobs lost. If we don’t get those people back to work then we’ll lose them.”

Wildfire_aftermathClean-up jobs going to outsiders
In the meantime, job fairs held this month in Calgary and Edmonton by Spirit Staffing & Consulting Inc., an Alberta-based recruitment firm hired to find clean-up workers, met with overwhelming response. However, some Fort McMurray evacuees were reportedly turned away, with many of the jobs going to workers from outside the city, despite assurances by the company that evacuees would receive special consideration.

Some good news possible soon
Ongoing meetings between the FMCA and the Municipality’s council are an attempt to bring pressure by teaming with groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, Iggulden said:“We have to make the Ministry realize how important it is to the community.”

In the meantime, Iggulden said he hopes that work might be contracted through the municipality: “We’ll have a few more details in the next few days and should have a clearer picture. The municipality is fairly receptive to our position about hiring local guys. We’re hoping there will some good news or something optimistic we can tell our members. Some work can go through the municipality once they take over from the provincial state of emergency.”

Iggulden stressed that he, his organization, and the entire Fort McMurray community is truly grateful for the response received from Canadians. “We can’t believe the support we’ve had provincially and nationally from different communities. We’re really humbled by all the support from all across Canada.”

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