Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a massive influx of $616 million into B.C.’s public transit infrastructure on Thursday, but what they failed to mention is where new buses will be manufactured. The answer? China.
Unifor, the union representing Canadian auto workers, says they are disappointed to learn Canadian bus manufacturers New Flyer and Nova Bus were overlooked for a $35-million contract to construct 112 new buses, which has instead been given to Grande West Transportation.
The Canadian-run Grande West manufactures Vicinity buses in China, including those currently used throughout the B.C. Transit region outside Metro Vancouver, and sells to many public transit markets across Canada.
According to a May 10, 2016 release from the company, B.C. Transit awarded them a five-year contract worth over $35 million with an initial order of 41 buses for $13 million. An optional 71 buses are further included in the contract with the ability for units to be increased during the five-year term.
Grande West says the new fuel efficient and cleaner burning diesel buses will replace older B.C. Transit vehicles by 2017.
While the company is managed in Canada and buses are engineered in B.C., Unifor, New Flyer, and Nova Bus are upset the manufacturing won’t happen locally.
“Christy Clark had a clear choice, and she chose to outsource Canadian work to China,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor’s National President. “Christy Clark wasted an important opportunity to fix transit and create good jobs at the same time.”
New Flyer’s manufacture centre employs over 1,350 people in Winnipeg and Nova Bus employs over 750 in Quebec.
“These are buses that could be built by Canadian companies and Canadian workers. It makes no sense,” said NDP MLA for Vancouver-Hastings Shane Simpson.
But B.C. Transit says the contract was fair.
“The purchase followed an open and transparent bidding process to ensure taxpayer value,” the company said in a statement.
They added that the vehicles should not be thought of as “Chinese buses” but “Canadian buses assembled in China.” And according to B.C. Transit, there is no comparable bus of this class that is available on the Canadian market right now.
Premier Clark says the decision to go with Grande West was about getting the best deal for taxpayers.