Toronto mayoralty candidate slammed over call for open tendering

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By Michael Lewis

Special to Ontario Construction News

Toronto and York Region Labour Council and the Central Ontario Building Trades are condemning Toronto mayoral candidate Brad Bradford’s call for open tendering on City of Toronto construction projects.

“A candidate wants to save the city money on the backs of workers, and that’s a non-starter,” said Andria Babbington, president of the Labour Council. “We know that when tradespeople are unionized, they work safer, are better trained, and are happier and more secure members of society,” she said in a news release. “City council understands this, and that’s why Toronto remains a union-friendly employer.”

At a time when many people are looking outside of the city limits to find housing that matches average working-class salaries, a move to destabilize Toronto’s construction workforce would pose an additional barrier to maintaining a livable city, the release said.

“It’s disappointing that Brad Bradford has reversed his stance on open tendering and is now clearly taking a direct position against unionized construction workers who have been the backbone of building this city and actively shaping good and safe work in this region for over a century,” said James St. John, business manager/ financial secretary of the Central Ontario Building Trades.

“We hope other candidates—and all governments — will be smart enough not to pick this fight with organized labour in Toronto.”

Toronto & York Region Labour Council represents 220,000 workers while the Central Ontario Building Trades represents 25 trade union affiliates and tens of thousands of skilled tradespeople.

In 2019, Toronto City Council voted in support of remaining a unionized construction employer. Brad Bradford voted yes—but now he is saying no, the release said. Toronto council at the time voted 20 to 4 in favour of maintaining the status quo with organized labour. It also voted in favour of allowing the Labourers’ International Union of North America to bid on city construction work.

Bradford, a Toronto councillor who is trailing frontrunners in the race to replace former mayor John Tory in the June 26 byelection, said if elected he would call on the province to move to open bidding on city projects to save “at least $200 million annually and expand our capacity to get projects done faster.”

Toronto policy limits who can bid on construction projects to ten unionized construction trades in a closed tendering process Bradford in a statement called “bad for taxpayers, bad for accountability and bad for the city budget.” He did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.

The Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario (CDCO) has endorsed mayoral candidate Ana Bailao who has been a staunch supporter of the current tendering process while the Labourers’ Union points out that Bradford would need the province to resubmit legislation to permit open bidding. Other mayoral contenders including Olivia Chow and Josh Matlow have reiterated their support for closed bidding on Toronto ICI projects.

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