Big Sudbury construction projects ahead, but who's going to build them?

Some are calling them Sudbury’s ‘big six,’ large construction projects that are scheduled to be built or on the city's horizon. They include a new arena, casino, arts centre and potentially a library and connected art gallery.

Sudbury and Manitoulin Workforce urging politicians to stagger construction starts

Reggie Calverson, executive director of Sudbury and Manitoulin Workforce Planning, is hoping the data her group has collected helps convince politicians to stagger construction dates for upcoming big projects. (Casey Stranges CBC)

Some are calling them Sudbury's 'big six,' large construction projects that are scheduled to be built or on the city's horizon.  They include a new arena, casino, arts centre and potentially a library and connected art gallery. 

At the municipal level, some projects, like the Kingsway Entertainment District, has been moving full steam ahead. But Sudbury and Manitoulin Workforce, a local group, is urging politicians to tread slowly.  

Reggie Caverson, the group's executive director, told CBC News the group is pushing for staggered start dates for the projects.

"If they don't stagger the process, we don't have enough people to fill all the jobs required during certain phases of the project," Caverson said.

That will lead to a shortage of skilled workers, she said. 

Calverson said the group is also asking for more clarity on how the city awards contracts for new projects.

"There's a secondary issue with the city in the bidding process," Caverson said. "Whether or not contractors who are successful are hiring local. How can we make sure more of our local people are employed?"

Pressure to get shovels in the ground

The pressure to deliver on deadlines once the government approves funding often pushes contractors to hire outside the local labour pool, an approach that ends up draining money away from the community.

"We heard of one project where all the workers were brought in from out of town," she said. "We're trying to say that the whole phase of construction should be a benefit to our whole community."

Coun. Michael Vagnini says Sudbury should consider addressing current needs before embarking on big construction projects. (Angela Gemmill CBC)

Bonus points for hiring local? 

Coun. Mike Vagnini said he'd prefer a project schedule that would benefit Sudbury's pool of labourers over the long-term, rather than getting the jobs done quickly. He also thinks the bidding process should favour contractors who hire from within the city.

"We have workers coming in from outside the city,and working in our local job market," Vagnini said. "Whereas some cities have actually gone to a point system, where they're giving more points to people hiring within the community."

But until the shovels are in the ground, not everyone in the construction industry is celebrating.

Anthony Iannucci, training coordinator for U.A. Local Union 800, the union representing plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters, says there’s more than enough members in his union to cover the amount of work ahead. (Casey Stranges CBC)

Anthony Iannucci, the training coordinator for U.A. Local Union 800, the union representing plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters, said there's more than enough members in his union to cover the amount of work ahead.

"I believe in the mechanical trades there are enough to cover the work— but it's the timing," Iannucci said. "If they stagger [construction] over five or seven years, that would maintain a local workforce, and that way the economic benefits stay in the city."

As for the "big six", Iannucci said his members have heard big promises before.

"Sometimes projects make a big splash in the newspaper as to whether they're gonna go, but in reality sometimes they don't go," he said.

"We've had a couple cancellations at Vale recently so we'll always take them with a grain of salt and wait until actually the contracts are signed."

About the Author

Casey Stranges

Casey Stranges is a reporter based in Sudbury. casey.stranges@cbc.ca

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