The Grande Prairie Chamber of Commerce remains steadfast on advocating for the sub-trades who may still be facing financial ruin. This, the release of court-held provincial funds has been ordered.
“The larger companies are going to need to pay themselves and their direct employees, at least they feel they need to before they start paying subcontractors to themselves,” says Board Chair Dan Wong
The chamber sent a letter to Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda earlier this month suggesting companies in the region are suffering financial hardship due to non-payment of construction contracts.
Wong, who works in the engineering field, says the Builder’s Lien Act used in the private sector would normally stop an issue like this from arising, but because it’s a public sector build, it has become a muddy situation.
“In this situation, it’s a completely different act, it’s the Public Works Act that not only protects the government, but it’s supposed to balance the rights between the contractors and the government. But, in this situation it didn’t really help the sub-trades,” he says.
“Normally when we release payments like this, there is a statutory declaration that goes out which basically says, ‘as a contractor, but I have to prove to you first that I’ve paid all the people I’m supposed to pay’, and in this case that didn’t happen and it’s now created quite a conflict,” Wong adds.
On May 13th, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that nearly $13 million of $30 million of court-held government funds should be released to contractors owed for their work at the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital.
The court order was announced in the aftermath of claims by Edmonton-based Schendel Construction, who say they are owed more than $26 million for three years of contracted work. Their time on the project came to a halt after original project manager Graham Construction was taken off the build in November 2018.
Wong says he knows the fight companies are facing is difficult, to say the least, but they must know they’re not alone.
“There are organizations like the chamber, and the construction association and others that are looking to advocate on their behalf. It’s a terrible situation.”
The Court of Queen’s Bench says it will next hear the matter on July 11th.