Minister addresses concerns about jobs for Pine Point Bridge project

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The superstructure of the Pine Point Bridge has been removed in the reconstruction of the span across the Hay River. Traffic is crossing the river on an old railway bridge. Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
The superstructure of the Pine Point Bridge has been removed in the reconstruction of the span across the Hay River. Traffic is crossing the river on an old railway bridge.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Some concerns have been raised in Hay River about local employment on the $12.8-million project to replace the Pine Point Bridge.

Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson has heard those concerns.

“I think the GNWT definitely needs to do more when it comes to ensuring that Northerners are benefitting from these large infrastructure projects,” he said.

Specifically on the Pine Point Bridge, Simpson requested information from the Department of Infrastructure, and received a written reply from Infrastructure Minister Wally Schumann.

“The Department of Infrastructure is monitoring the levels of local/northern involvement and sub-contractors being used on the project,” said Schumann in an e-mail to Simpson, which he received permission to release.

Schumann provided the following summary of local/northern workers and sub-contractors who have been involved in the project as of March 20:

  • Three local labourers and two carpenters working directly for the general contractor, Eiffage Innovation Canada Inc.
  • Two welders from Aurora Manufacturing.
  • Equipment operators from Rowe’s Construction and Carter Industries.
  • Steel salvage work being completed in a joint venture of the Hay River Metis Government Council and ABC Recycling, a southern company.
  • Eiffage Innovation Canada Inc. has received three resumes from local journeyperson carpenters and is in the process of reviewing/hiring.

The information from Schumann noted that southern subcontractors specializing in piling and concrete repair work are engaged on the project.

“Infrastructure officials will be following up with the contractor to discuss further and how the local involvement can be maximized,” wrote Schumann.

Simpson said it is hard to tell exactly what is happening at the project from the information he was provided.

“So I’m not quite sure what to think,” he said. “And speaking to some people around town, they’re not necessarily buying what I’ve been told.”

Simpson said he has previously raised the issue of local employment on infrastructure projects involving public money in the NWT.

“We have to make sure we’re spending it to the benefit of Northerners,” he said, adding the GNWT needs to make sure that southern contractors understand that.

The MLA noted such projects provide training to Northerners, and local skilled workers will likely become very important in Hay River in the near future.

“We are on the cusp of some big projects in Hay River – the 48-bed long-term care facility, the Hay River fish plant and possibly some other ones,” Simpson said. “And we’ve got to make sure that we get this right now so that we can benefit from those projects.”

At the height of the reconstruction project for the Pine Point Bridge this year, there will be about 20 workers on site.

Work on site began in the fall of last year, and the new bridge should be open to traffic by November.

Only the foundations of the 167-metre-long bridge are being reused.

While the bridge is being reconstructed, traffic is being detoured onto an old railway bridge.

When completed, the new Pine Point Bridge will be in the style of the West Channel Bridge.