Edmonton

Drywall price spike may impact Fort McMurray rebuild, contractors say

The Canadian Border Services Agency imposed new import taxes on some U.S. drywall imports because they were unfairly competing with Canadian drywall producers.

'We need to think really clearly about how these sorts of decisions ... are going to impact people'

Contractors say home construction costs in Alberta and across Canada will rise if gypsum prices continue to go up. (Julie Gordon/Reuters)

Contractors warn Alberta is about to see a spike in home construction costs that could make it more expensive for Fort McMurray residents to rebuild their homes.

David Campbell, vice-president of operations for Empire Drywall, said the price of drywall has jumped by 50 per cent in the last week.

Campbell and other local contractors in Fort McMurray are concerned about how the price surge will impact home construction in the fire-ravaged city.

"Every home that is rebuilt here is going to have to have drywall," said J. Paul McLeod, owner of Vancon Services, a construction company.

J Paul McLeod of Vancon Services says a surge in drywall prices will affect the Fort McMurray rebuild. (David Thurton/ CBC News)

Last week, in a preliminary ruling, the Canadian Border Services Agency announced it would impose an import tax or tariff on most gypsum board coming from the U.S.

The Canadian government imposed duties of up to 276 per cent on drywall imported from the U.S. in an effort to help Canadian producers.

In its preliminary statement of reasons, the CBSA said it found "evidence that gypsum board originating in or exported from the U.S., imported into Canada ... has been dumped," meaning the products are being sold below normal prices.

We need to think really clearly about how these sorts of decisions... are going to impact people.- J Paul  McLeod

Though most Fort McMurray residents have not begun rebuilding their homes, McLeod is worried about the impact higher drywall costs will have on owners who must rely on insurance payouts.

"We need to think really clearly about how these sorts of decisions, that are made a very far way away from here in Ottawa, are going to impact people," McLeod said.

The Canadian government imposed duties of up to 276 per cent on drywall imported from the U.S. in an effort to help Canadian producers. (Getty Images)

Campbell said the ruling impacts many drywallers, who often sign fixed contracts with builders and will now have to absorb the increased costs, which could rise as high as 270 per cent.

"For us, it could be devastating, we're a fairly large contractor in Alberta," Campbell said.

If prices continue to climb, companies like his will eventually pass the increases on to consumers .

Both Campbell and McLeod are calling on the federal government to intervene.

Campbell said he and others in the construction industry have written letters and are lobbying the government.

With files from Liam Britten