Everyone is talking about the foreign buyers tax in Ontario — but no one is talking about the increase in foreign builders.
What do I mean by foreign builders? Large, international companies based in Italy, France, or Japan, with small offices within the GTHA, are being given contracts for large transit projects while smaller Canadian companies are shut out.
If you take a look at the shortlist for the Hurontario LRT, half of the constructors are not from Canada. They may have Canadian offices, but the companies themselves were created and have headquarters in Europe, the United States, and Asia. While each individual “team” that is bidding for the contract does have at least two Canadian companies on board, this is not a guarantee on division of work and/or financial contributions.
And this is a big problem.
By allotting contracts for big developments and transit projects to foreign builders, it severely impacts the Canadian economy. It means less jobs and less money for construction workers, and it means the competition between Canadian companies is steep.
Canada also has a unique climate. There are certain materials that must be used for a development to support extreme cold and hot temperatures. Would a company from Spain or Italy be able to understand how to build something resistant to this temperamental landscape?
An even bigger problem is that these foreign companies are not connected to the community, and therefore do not understand and/or empathize with local concerns over a new development. These companies come in, build, and leave, which means they are not around if any problems arise and they don’t get to see the affect it has on the residents who leave them. There is no real investment to the community they are building.
To be clear, collaborating with international partners is not a bad thing. These types of partnerships can inspire new ideas and provide interesting solutions to municipal problems.
However, when native companies are pushed out of the process in favour of international conglomerates — it’s Canada that loses out.