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Uncertainty remains in Grande Prairie construction industry

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Despite the economy turning around, there is still uncertainty in the local construction industry. Grande Prairie Construction Association president Leon Gullickson says part of that comes from recent changes to labour standards.

“It’s kind of a triple whammy for employers. When we’re trying to recover with low margins already, and then to have all these extra costs, it’s not a good thing. That’s something that we really work hard to counteract.”

As of January 1, 2018, rules surrounding vacation time, overtime, and holiday pay changed to make sure all workers are eligible. Gullickson says he’s already heard from local employers wanting to know more about the province moving away from straight time pay, and how the changes affect banked time.

A labour market outlook from BuildForce Canada released last week predicted Alberta’s construction industry will be downsized by as many as 5,200 jobs through 2019. However, it shows the worst for the industry is behind it.

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Gullickson believes that to be true locally, but says he’s still uneasy about the ongoing battle over the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Alberta carbon tax, as well as delays in larger municipal or provincial projects, like the new health facility in Beaverlodge. He adds that Grande Prairie fared better than many other cities in the province during the downturn.

“Grande Prairie is probably a little busier than Red Deer, Edmonton, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Lloydminster and Fort McMurray, mostly because of the oilfield and the forestry. There is some light at the end of the horizon for Alberta and I think Grande Prairie is a little brighter.”

Local construction companies reportedly saw improvement last year, which is expected to slowly continue to grow through 2018 and 2019. Sectors like oil and gas look particularly promising, and Gullickson expects to see an upcoming skilled labour shortage across Alberta.

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