Hamilton-Brantford Building and Construction Trades Council shocked by decision to cancel $500 million courthouse construction

site proposed courthouse
Site of the cancelled courthouse

Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Hamilton-Brantford Building and Construction Trades Council is shocked and disappointed that the Ontario Government has cancelled the Halton Consolidated Provincial Courthouse P3 Project.

Procurement for the new courthouse was coming to financial close with a consortium led by Fengate (in partnership with Ontario trade union pension funds) with Pomerleau as its design-build contractor, and SNC as its maintenance provider, selected as preferred low-cost bidder.

The courthouse plan had called for the 7-storey, 45,000 sq. m.courthouse to be built on provincially-owned land near the intersection of William Halton Parkway and Third Line, just north of Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital.

It would have featured 25 courtrooms, with space to expand to 32 courtrooms over time, and 1,200 parking spaces. Work was scheduled to start in late 2020.  Construction costs were estimated to be close to $500 million and millions of dollars have already been spent to move the project to market over the past couple of years.

The Ministry of the Attorney General’s (MAG) decision to cancel the project at the end of the procurement process, means significant costs for Ontario:

  • Land has been procured, several phases of environmental studies have been conducted, technical, architectural, legal, financial and procurement advisors to MAG have been hired and worked over a three-year period.
  • Bid costs incurred by proponents over last several months will be payable by Ontario and could total $10 million.

On May 8 Attorney General Doug Downey released a statement noting the government had made a decision not to proceed with the Halton Region Consolidated Courthouse construction project, which was in the procurement phase before the coronavirus outbreak.

“This investment will be repurposed to transform and update Ontario’s severely antiquated justice system and address immediate infrastructure needs at the courthouses in Milton and Burlington,” said Downey.

It’s the second substantial public infrastructure project cancelled in the region in the past few months, following the cancellation of the $1 billion Hamilton LRT project. Together, the cancellations have generated significant concerns among the local construction workforce being able to get back to work after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If the region is losing almost $1.5 billion in direct public infrastructure investments, there is a real fear that the local economy will fall into further recession in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Mark Ellerker, business manager and financial secretary-treasurer of the Hamilton-Brantford Building and Construction Trades Council.

The sudden cancellation announced last Thursday sends a mixed message about restarting the economy after the COVID-19 crisis, Ellerker noted.

“When we hear about the local economy losing $1.5 billion in direct construction investment, that is only part of the story. When we factor in that every dollar spent directly on construction locally generates another $3 for the local economy, the lost opportunities will be devastating for our community.”

Losing these two local projects means the Hamilton area is losing $4 billion in local investments.

“The Hamilton-Brantford Building and Construction Trades Council strongly believes that the local economy needs the Halton Consolidated Provincial Courthouse project approved by the Ontario Government in order to help sustain local jobs for workers and businesses at a time of great uncertainty,” he concluded.

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