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Helps Fund Research for Type 1 Diabetes Cure

More than $2.2 million – that’s how much the Building Trades of Alberta and its Charitable Foundation have donated to diabetes research since 1991. The money goes to DRIFcan (Diabetes Research Institute Foundation Canada) to support the vital research needed to find a cure for diabetes.

Drifcan Logo

Charitable Foundation Donations Total More Than $6 Million

BTA created its Charitable Foundation in 2001. The members of BTA’s affiliated unions provide most of the Foundation’s funding by purchasing tickets in raffles authorized by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission. Raffles are held with contractor / owner permission at work sites. Additional funding comes from charity golf tournaments, curling bonspiels, events at the annual conference, and a 50-50 raffle at the Building Trades of Alberta Oil Kings Night. To date the Building Trades of Alberta Charitable Foundation has donated over $6 million to charitable organizations in Alberta.

BTA Charitable Foundation donated $20,000 to DRIFcan

In April 2018, the BTA Charitable Foundation donated $20,000 to DRIFcan.

To learn more, visit the BTA Charitable Foundation website.

DRIFcan Diabetes Research

  • DRIFCan is the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation Canada
  • DRIFcan funds cure-based research into Type 1 diabetes, which stops the body from producing its own insulin.
  • Worldwide,  45 million people have Type 1 Diabetes. 
  • More than 300,000 people in Canada have Type 1 Diabetes.
  • Dr. James Shapiro, the founder of DRIFcan and the lead researcher, developed the Edmonton Protocol
    • The Edmonton Protocol is a method of pancreaitic islet implantation.
    • The transplanted islets can then produce insulin, meaning that diabetes patients no longer require insulin treatment. They do, however, require immunosuppressive drugs.
  • Dr. Shapiro is currently leading a clinical trial of stem-cell derived islet replacement therapy, which could eliminate the needs for immunosuppressive drugs.
  • Learn more about DRIFcan.
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Careers and Trade Program Going Across Alberta

Training in the building trades will soon be available to Alberta high school students. The Building Trades of Alberta has partnered with The Educational Partnership Foundation (TEPF) to provide the training. Red seal journeymen will instruct students in the world-class training facilities operated by the BTA’s affiliated trade unions. TEPF developed this Trades and Climate Change Education Program in concert with Alberta Education and the Building Trades of Alberta.

Watch this video to learn about TEPF's work and the important support provided by BTA trade unions.

In the coming years, Alberta will experience a shortage of skilled trades workers. The TEPF program encourages high school students to consider careers in the skilled trades. TEPF's major fundraising activity, the Links & Legends Charity Golf Tournament, is held on August 13 at Calgary's  Valley Ridge Golf Course. The fun tournament is your chance to golf with Canadian Olympians, NHL and CFL players and alumni, and media celebrities. Sign up today to support TEPF.


TEPF's careers and trades program began in Calgary. Hats off to the trade unions that supported the first programs:

United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, Local 496 

Calgary, AB Local 496 

International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers, Local 725 in Calgary and Lethbridge.

 International Association of Bridge Structural Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers

The $350 million worth of training facilities belonging to BTA's affiliated trade unions are vital to the success of the program. The 125-hour programs give the 12-18 students in each class hands-on training in world-class facilities, with instruction from red seal journeymen. To date, an amazing 75% of graduates have been hired as apprentices.

Based on TEPF's success in Calgary and Lethbridge, the careers and trades program is expanding to school districts throughout Alberta. Contact TEPF about program opportunities for schools.

Let the Building Trades of Alberta know you support this important educational initiative.

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The Grassy Mountain steelmaking coal project, located near Blairmore in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, has reached an important new stage in the approval process. On July 11, 2018, the Government of Canada and the Alberta Energy Regulator approved a Joint Review Panel to ensure the coal project meets required federal and provincial laws and regulations, with an emphasis on environmental protections and the concerns of local Indigenous peoples. The review panel will also take public submissions. For Alberta’s building trade members, approval of the Grassy Mountain project will mean new jobs. Find out what you can do to promote the hiring of BTA trades workers. And learn more about how the project can benefit the communities that make up Crowsnest Pass and Alberta as a whole.

Grassy Mountain Coal Project

Source: Environment Canada

Building Trades Jobs

operating engineers

Source: International Union of Operating Engineers Local Union No. 955

Construction Phase Trades Jobs

The construction phase of the Grassy Mountain project is estimated to cost some $730 million, last about 21 months, and result in some 910-person years of on- and off-site employment. The construction trades will benefit.

Once approved, labour demand is expected to ramp up quickly. The demand for trades workers during construction will be mainly for heavy equipment operators, welders, millwrights, pipefitters, iron workers, and electricians. Some of the millwright and iron worker jobs could last for up to 2 years after construction.

Ongoing Operations Jobs

Once in full operation, the Grassy Mountain operation’s production capacity is estimated at 4 million tonnes of clean coal per year. Once processed, the steelmaking coal will be shipped overseas for steel production. The project will have a life-span of about 25 years, with operations expenditures of about $225 million/year, and employment for some 385 full-time workers.

The demand for trades workers will be mainly for heavy equipment operators, millwrights, and process operators.

Take Action to Support the Grassy Mountain Project

Panel members will soon be appointed to the Joint Review Panel. Interested parties will be able to make submissions to the Joint Review Panel and ask questions during hearings.

To support the hiring of building trades workers:

  1. Use social media. Tweet about the project. Follow BTA on Facebook and Twitter. Like posts and remember to retweet.
  2. Let your trade union local know you support the project.
  3. Contact your local MLA or MP. 

Use your street address to find contact information for your MLA.

Use your postal code to find your MP.

Tell them:

“I support the approval of the Grassy Mountain Steelmaking Coal Project.

The project will create well paid jobs and make a major contribution to the diversification of Alberta’s economy.

I urge you to approve this important project and to support the hiring of the best qualified trades workers Alberta has to offer, the members of the Building Trades of Alberta.”

Local and Provincial Benefits

Source: By Keith McClary (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Jobs: Local communities cannot fill the labour requirements of the Grassy Mountain project. As a result, the Crowsnest Pass and Ranchland municipalities and neighbouring communities will see an influx of workers to fill well paid jobs.

Economic Growth: The project will contribute to the economic diversification of Alberta and spur regional economic growth in southwestern Alberta.

Population growth: The population growth is an estimated 1100 people. The Crowsnest Pass communities and Sparwood, British Columbia, are expected to see the most growth.

Economic opportunities: As young families locate in the local communities, the project is expected to reinvigorate the region due to expanded business opportunities and increased demand for housing, schools, health care, and other services.

Property Taxes: The project will result in an increased property tax base in local communities totaling some $1.5 million annually.

Provincial and Federal Tax Base: The project will pay an estimated $140 million in provincial corporate taxes and $210 million in federal corporate income taxes, as well as an estimated $195 million in provincial royalties over the project’s operational life.

Grassy Mountain Project Facts

  • The Grassy Mountain project will develop an open-pit metallurgical coal mine. It is a steelmaking coal and coal processing project, not a thermal coal project.
  • Direct, related infrastructure includes temporary housing for construction workers, a coal conveyor system, load-out facilities for rail transport, maintenance shops, environmental management systems, and so on.
  • The project is being developed by Benga Mining Limited, a subsidiary of Riversdale Resources, which is an Australian mining company.
  • Benga purchased the properties in 2013.
  • Alberta Energy Regulator began its environmental review of the project in November 2015.
  • The project will redevelop the Grassy Mountain surface mine area, an open pit mining area that shut down more than 30 years ago. The site currently shows the damage done by previous mining.
  • Benga Mining has promised cleanup and remediation of the site when the mine's useful economic life is over.
  • The project is consulting with local Indigenous peoples and offering employment opportunities.
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Yesterday, July 22, 2018, the deadline passed to identify a new owner for the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. As a result, the Canadian government is set to become the official owner of the pipeline.

The investment of $4.5 billion means that construction will move forward. What does it mean for the average Canadian?

For the skilled trades workers of the BTA’s affiliated unions, construction means high paying skilled trades jobs. For Canada, it means a new nation-building project that will generate important benefits across the country.

Building Trades of Alberta and the Canadian Building Trades Unions have long supported the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline. Here's what you can do to voice your support for the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion and for jobs going to building trade union members.

  1. Know the benefits that the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion will mean for the Canadian job market and the economy.
  2. Take action to support this vital nation-building project.


Tell the federal government that you want the most qualified skilled trades workers to complete the Trans Mountain expansion, the skilled trades workers of the BTA.

Terry Parker, Executive Director, BTA

Proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline Extension Route



1. Benefits of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion

On top of the purchase price, Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion will result in a $6.8 to $7.4 billion capital investment in Canada. It is a major nation-building project. It echoes previous nation-building undertakings, from the original construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 19th century to the Trans-Canada Pipeline and St. Lawrence Seaway in the 20th century.

New Jobs

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will:

  • generate 15,000 construction jobs, including thousands of well-paid skilled building trades jobs
  • increase demand for new apprentices
  • provide jobs and training for Aboriginal workers
  • create thousands of spin-off jobs (estimate - 37,000)
  • result in ongoing demand for skilled trades workers in maintenance, extraction facilities, refineries and other facilities, creating jobs that contribute to Canada's economic health.

Remember, according to the CBTU, "Every construction job produces 7 spinoff jobs in other sectors."

Economic Growth

Right now, Canada is losing some $15 billion per year due to low oil prices because the U.S. remains its only customer for oil exports. At a time when the US market is less certain, Trans Mountain becomes doubly important. By transporting raw bitumen to the West coast, the Trans Mountain expansion will

  • open up new markets and better prices for Alberta's shut-in oil
  • increase pipeline capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels
  • unlock new investment in the oil sands and result in $73.5 billion of new oil production over 20 years
  • create new business opportunities for Aboriginal businesses, sub-contractors, suppliers, and vendors.

Government Revenues

Trans Mountain expansion will generate an estimated

  • $46.7 billion in new federal and provincial government tax and royalty revenues
  • $922 million in new BC municipal tax revenues
  • $124 million in Alberta municipal tax revenues.

Environmental Protection

Pipelines are the least costly, most reliable, most secure way of transporting oil and gas while protecting our communities and environment. The expansion has been approved by the National Energy Board following an extensive environmental review. Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion will adhere to strict environmental regulations to mitigate environmental impacts and protect

  • farm land
  • wetlands
  • ground water
  • traditional land uses and protected areas
  • air quality at the marine terminal.

2. Steps you can take to support the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion

Remember, the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion will create thousands of well paid, middle class jobs for Canadian families and skilled building trades union members. Take action to support this project today.

Did You Know?

The original 1,150-kilometre Trans Mountain Pipeline was also built to get Alberta's shut-in oil to new global markets.

Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Timeline

  • May 2012 Kinder Morgan announces proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline
  • December 2013 - Kinder Morgan applies to the National Energy Board
  • May 19, 2016 National Energy Board recommends conditional approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project
  • November 2016 Ottawa approves the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project
  • January 2017 BC vows to restrict increases in bitumen shipments from Alberta.
  • April 8, 2018, Kinder Morgan stops all non-essential work and related spending due to BC government opposition to the project
  • May 29, 2018 Government of Canada agrees to purchase Trans Mountain Pipeline system and the expansion project for C$4.5 billion if no other buyer is identified by July 22, 2018.
  • Alberta government commits to invest $2 billion once the project makes a profit. In return, the Alberta government will receive equity in the assets or a share of profits.
  • July 22, 2018 - The deadline passes and the Government of Canada is poised to purchase the pipeline, pumping stations, rights of way, and marine terminal in Burnaby, BC.
  • What it means: 
    • Construction will proceed under the ownership of a Crown corporation.
    • 2018 Summer construction jobs are preserved.
    • Assets will later be sold to new owners.
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Posted by on in Stakeholder Relations

You may have seen the announcement in the newspaper or on the home page of our website, or maybe you heard about it through the grapevine, but the BTA has a new Executive Director! Terry Parker joined the team last week after spending twelve years as the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Building Trades.

Terry is a glazier and former business agent for the International Union and Painters and Allied Trades. He brings not only a ton of experience in the unionized construction and maintenance industries, but also a unique perspective formed in part by earning a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the university of Manitoba.

For the next four weeks or so, Warren and Terry will be working together as the leadership role transitions, and Terry settles in to the position of heading up the busiest and biggest building trades council in Canada.

As much as we are very excited to have this infusion of new blood and new perspective into the Building Trades of Alberta, and as eager as we are to see what we will accomplish under Terry’s direction, we are sad to see Warren go and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

If you want to offer greetings to Terry or to thank Warren for his years of dedicated service, please feel free to email us at

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Double-breasting happens – every tradesperson knows it does. And every tradesperson knows it is unfair and should be eliminated. However, there are some other things that tradespeople “know” about double-breasting that we want to help clear up.

What is double-breasting?

Double-breasting occurs when an employer operates a union wing and a non-union wing, although the arrangement is not typically as clear as that. The purpose of double-breasting is to allow an employer to circumvent the choice of employees to unionize by transferring the work that they would typically do to the non-union group, in order to deny work to the employees who chose to be represented by a union. Usually the employer will operate as a management group and that group will then hire the non-union wing on a contract basis, which makes it appear as though the non-union entity is not technically part of the employer.

Why is it allowed?

Double-breasting is not actually allowed in legislation. The Labour Code has something called a common employer provision which was created to ensure that “established bargaining rights are not eliminated because of a corporate reorganization or split” ( This means that companies cannot create separate groups within their structure to limit the ability of its employees to organize or to receive protection from unions. Companies are certainly allowed to create different divisions as required for business purposes, but they are not supposed to end up creating union and non-union divisions that do the same work.

Where does it happen?

Under the Code, every industry except construction has the ability to actively enforce this legislation, which is why double-breasting really only seems to appear in our industry. The Code relating to the construction industry places far more onus on the union to request a common employer declaration, which is a finding by the Labour Board that two or more entities operate under common control and direction, which would require the employer to eliminate non-unionized operations. The employer has the ability to say that cooperating with the review would cause a hardship and that the union is merely “going on a fishing expedition”, and therefore not provide the information needed to substantiate the claim by the union.

What can be done about it?

Having the legislation changed to place the onus on employers to provide records to prove the need for separate divisions would bring the construction industry in line with every other industry in Alberta and would be a good start. This is one of the recommendations that the BTA has made to the government under the current Labour Code review. See the full submission on our home page. You can get involved too. Read the submission and talk to your MLA to let them know how important this is to you. Visit and sign up to have a letter sent on your behalf to your MLA. The more people we can get involved in the conversation, the more the government will have to listen, so add your voice!

Comments? Questions? Connect with us at



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Posted by on in Stakeholder Relations

The government has opened up the Labour Relations Code review to engage Albertans. The Building Trades of Alberta, along with other labour groups including the AFL, AUPE and UFCW have taken the lead in providing the government with strong direction regarding what needs to be done to the Code in order to make it fair, current and more in line with the legislation found across Canada. Have a look at the BTA submission to the government on our home page at

In response, many groups who support non-union jobsites are trying to coordinate efforts to get their message to the government. They have been saying that the legislation as it currently exists is fair and balanced and any changes to it would only serve to upset that balance. They say that the current structure of the labour legislation is creating a stable investing environment that encourages businesses to come to Alberta; that it contributes to the Alberta Advantage. They say that with everything that the government has to deal with, now is not the time to open up legislation and review and update it.

Let’s have a look at the arguments that the other side is trying to use when they fight changes to the Code and see why they don’t hold water.

First, the current legislation is anything but fair and balanced. The power and the choice is in the hands of the employer. Interestingly, the same groups that are arguing that the Code is fair and balanced argued the opposite under the previous government! But now that the government is willing to have a look at the Code and to level the playing field, they claim Code needs no changes. It is easy to see that they are not interested in fair – they are looking to maintain the advantages they have had over workers for years. The BTA has always fought for the rights of workers, and we are finally in a position to have a government that will consult with us.

The second argument that opponents to opening up the Labour Code use is to claim that the current laws create a favourable, stable investment environment. Alberta has always been a resource-rich province which encourages national and international investment, but the type of investment that an economy attracts makes a difference too. Countries with abhorrent human rights practices and no safety or workers’ rights unfortunately draw a lot of investment due to the cheap labour and lack of regulation. Obviously no-one is advocating for that in Alberta, but if we don’t ensure that the workers, the people who live in Alberta and help to build the province, receive appropriate protection and rights under the Labour Code, then we are headed down that road.

Finally, opponents of updating the Labour Code say that now is not the best time to take on this project. When would be the best time? When oil is back over $100/barrel? When then existing legislation has helped marginalize unions by maintaining the balance of power in favour of employers? Review of legislation is kind of like having kids: there is never a good time to do it and by the time you think it is a good time, it’s too late.

The best time to look at labour laws and finds ways to improve the protections available to workers will always be RIGHT NOW.

The fact of the matter is that Alberta has some of the oldest labour laws in the country. The laws were created by an anti-labour government to assist employers. The BTA is working to try to get the laws changed and to create an even playing field. Visit our home page to review the submission that the BTA sent in to the government regarding the changes needed for the Labour Relations Code to truly be fair.

How can you get involved? Help make the changes recommended in our submission a reality by connecting with your MLA and letting them know how you feel. At a minimum, visit and add your name to the list of concerned Albertans. By adding your name to the list, a letter will be sent to your MLA on your behalf, asking him or her to support legislation which will help end the practice of double-breasting.


Comments? Questions? Let us know at

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Posted by on in Stakeholder Relations

Some of you may have seen that the Supreme Court of Canada, on February 2, ruled against Merit Contractors on a case involving union membership at Manitoba Hydro. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here.

This was a positive note for organized labour, to see that the courts were willing not only to protect the rights of workers and but to protect the role of the union in providing that protection and ensuring that workers are all treated equitably. In fact, the courts felt so strongly that what Merit was arguing did not serve the public interest that Merit was forced to pay all costs, including those incurred by Manitoba Hydro and the unions involved (Insulators, Electricians and Operating Engineers).

Merit had been fighting this case for the last five years, at the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, Manitoba Court of Appeal and finally, at the Supreme Court of Canada.

From its very beginning, Merit Contractors has functioned to try to weaken unions and remove them from the construction industry altogether, and one of their main focuses is on getting labour legislation changed in order to remove protections for workers. They tried this in Manitoba and failed. They attacked the legislation in Nova Scotia in 2014. They tried to bully the Alberta Government into making changes to their programming by posting an open letter to the Premier last year.

We need to remember that we do not work in a vacuum. While the unionized building trades works to keep members employed, safe and well-trained, groups like Merit are working to destroy what our Locals have worked to build. We need to ensure that our government knows we are here and we are strong. If you haven’t contacted your MLA yet and shared your thoughts, please do so. Click here to look up your MLA if you are not sure who they are. If you don’t know what to talk about, the BTA can help. We built a policy book that lays out the things we are fighting for and we are always looking for ways to add your voice to ours to ensure we get heard.

Together we are strong and together we can help ensure a prosperous tomorrow.

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Regardless how you feel about the political goings-on in America these days, and no matter what you think about Donald Trump as a leader, he has already done a few things in office that can potentially give those of us in the trades some hope.

First, he approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The Keystone XL pipeline will help Alberta get more of our product to market and provide many construction jobs while the pipeline, which starts in Hardisty, Alberta is being built.

Second, he pulled America out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The agreement took seven years to negotiate, and with America leaving the agreement, the TPP cannot be ratified. The agreement was slated to be the largest free-trade agreement in history, reducing or eliminating many tariffs and other barriers to trade. However, it also threatened the Canadian skilled labour force as it would allow foreign companies working in Canada to bring in workers from their country and would not require them to ensure that Canadian workers with the same qualifications be given the first opportunity for employment.

Finally, Trump met with North America Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey and other union leaders to hear their thoughts on what needs to be done to “create jobs, re-build America’s infrastructure, further develop and harness America’s abundant energy resources, raise the wages of working-class Americans, and move people off of public assistance and into the American middle class”.

All three of these actions have the potential to benefit skilled trades workers, not just in America but here at home, as well.

What do you think? Could President Donald Trump be good for the unionized trades? Let us know at

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Well, here we are in a brand new year. An opportunity to look ahead, to move forward, to forge a path. But before we do that, maybe we should clear the air a little regarding 2016.

There seem to be two camps regarding the year we just closed out: either it was a pretty good year, or it was an awful year. There are certainly arguments for each. Here are just a few of the ones I found online:

Is 2016 the Worst Year in History?

Is 2016 Really One of the Worst Years in History? 

2016: Worst. Year. Ever?

31 Reasons Why 2016 Has Been the Best Years on Record

99 Reasons Why 2016 Has Been a Great Year for Humanity,

and my personal favourite, from everyone’s favourite Canadian astronaut: Chris Hadfield Reminds Us of All the Good Things That Happened in 2016.

Add to that the fire in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and then the recent 18-month high in the price of oil and approval of two pipelines out of Alberta, and it’s hard to decide overall what kind of year 2016 was. On a personal level, it’s much easier to determine, and I sincerely hope that you had more good than bad last year.

However, it’s now 2017 and it is time to look forward. Make a decision to have a positive impact on the people around you – get involved. Help others. Show people what it means to be kind and supportive – to treat people with respect. Take some time to invest in yourself. Try something new.

Have a look at this article: One Memorable Day, Once a Month. It suggests that we try taking one day a month to commit 100% to something. Anything. And to use that to grow. I’m going to try it and so are several of my friends. Why don’t you, too? It’s like a resolution, but better, because it’s only one day a month – totally doable.

Let me know what you think. Share what your plans are for 2017. What are you going to commit to?

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Posted by on in Stakeholder Relations

Christmas is only 5 days away! For those of us who celebrate it, that means we don’t have a lot of time left to prepare for the big day. For me, that means I have to get started.

Decorations, gifts, food; all of the usual stuff that goes with the modern Christmas event needs to be sourced, but there is more to it than that. While we are working to ensure our homes are decked out to the level we (and our kids) like, and while we are ensuring we prepare the perfect meal and handing out the perfect gifts, as best we can, now is a good time to consider where we are getting our supplies too.

With a little bit of research, you can feel good not just about what you are purchasing, but where you are buying from. The union movement was built on equality and fair treatment for all workers. Not all stores and not all producers feel the same way. Some refuse pay a living wage to their employees, some do not provide benefits to their staff. Some producers exploit their workers with long hours, minimal pay, or unbelievably, with child labour! In 2016!

Having said that, it is not always possible or practical for you to only buy products created by union hands or to avoid companies that actively fight organized labour. What matters is that we are making informed decisions regarding how and when we spend our money. Put some thought into where you spend your money because each dollar you spend tells the company that you support the way they do business. Choose carefully how you spend your money. And that can help everyone have a good Christmas.

Do you have any comments or questions? Maybe you know of some great labour-friendly products or places to shop that you would like to share. Let us know.

Until then, have a great holiday season and a safe and happy New Year.

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Last week was a big week – important things happened that I hope you were able to take some time and think about.

First, last Friday was Remembrance Day. The day once a year where we, as a nation, pause to remember the sacrifices of the men and women who served our country in the military. This matters, because the rights and freedoms that these people fought and died to protect are the rights and freedoms that we have today, including freedom from oppression, freedom of thought, speech and association, and the right to essentially live as we want to live. This is no small matter, as there are people all over the world who do not have these rights and freedoms, nor do they have anyone fighting to get it for them.

Unions fight for your rights as well. It is because of the close association between the military and unions that the BTA partners with Helmets to Hardhats, a national organization that works with the unionized building trades to help Canadians transitioning from their work in the military to working in the civilian world, by helping them use the skills they learned serving our country and apply them to work in the trades, with the support of locals across Canada. Learn more at or talk to your local and help get the word out – there are always more people that we can help.

Second, there was an election last week too (you may have heard). Why does that matter here? It matters because the men who will be the new President and Vice-President of America actively work against unions. The first spent half a million dollars recently fighting certification at his property in Las Vegas, and refused to bargain after certification was granted. The second, while governor of Indiana, fought for right-to-work legislation, which is essentially anti-union and has been shown to decrease the average worker’s wage and reduce the overall output of the economy. Having two anti-union leaders running the country south of the border can make things more difficult for unionized labour everywhere.

Get involved! If we, as the unionized building trades are to have any chance of protecting what we have worked to build, or hope to build in the future, our members voices need to be heard. Not with protests and marches – those are a last resort. We need to get involved politically. Join boards and committees. Run for office locally, regionally, provincially, on your school board –anywhere decisions about our future are being made. You can bet our competition is doing it, and if we don’t make sure the union voice is heard, then everything we are fighting for, everything our forbearers fought for will be lost.

It can be hard to look forward when we are struggling to hold on to what we have right now, but that is exactly what we need to do. We need, as a group, to get into positions which can impact the environment in which we operate for years to come. We have never had a government so willing to let us in and have a say, and we are not likely to have this opportunity for much longer, so find out how you can invest some of your time, your energy and your spirit to help ensure that our apprentices have work to go to and that the unionized building trades remain a powerful and reliable force for building our province.

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Last month, the BTA hosted our annual conference. This year, the theme was “Re-Defining Our Workplace: The Diversification of our People, Resources and Economy”. We had guests and speakers from across the country come to talk about the importance of diversification and the importance of participating in, or even leading, the diversification of our industry. For all the details, as well as downloadable copies of many of the presentations, visit here ( 

As our industry grapples with reduced prices for our products and limited availability for work, it is more essential than ever to ensure that we are as nimble and as prepared as possible for whatever the future may hold.

That means not just responding to opportunities as they come up, but creating those opportunities and showing everyone how it is done, as demonstrated by our brothers who presented on sustainable and renewable energy initiatives.

That means taking the time that the current situation offers to re-evaluate how we are getting the work done, focusing on ways to improve the work we do, whether through additional training or paying closer attention to the mentoring that we provide and that our apprentices should expect.

That means examining how we support and lift each other up, whether through increased attention to safety and mental health or by committing to providing respectful workplaces for all current and future brothers and sisters.

Information on how your brothers and sisters are taking advantage of the opportunities that come with diversification is found in the conference summary, but that isn’t the only place to look. Look around where you are now, talk to your local, get involved – help lead the way.

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Union labour does good work – we all know that. Our members receive world-class training, are committed to the development of their craft and actively work to protect their brothers and sisters, both on and off the worksite. But one thing that often gets overlooked when considering the good that union labour does is the contribution to Alberta communities and citizens through our Building Trades of Alberta Charitable Foundation.

Over the last fifteen years, the Charitable Foundation has donated over six million dollars to worthwhile charities across the province, including Prostate Cancer Canada, the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation of Canada, the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation (including being the lead sponsor of the Courage Centre – one of the most technologically advanced rehabilitation and research centres in Canada []), and STARS Air Ambulance, just to name a few. To have a look at some of the other groups that the Charitable Foundation helps, visit here.

Now, where does the Charitable Foundation get the money to be able to do all the good that it does? All proceeds are raised voluntarily by members. Proceeds from the following four annual events provide some of the funding for the charitable activity that the Foundation undertakes:

  • ·         annual golf tournament at the Edmonton Garrison Memorial Golf & Curling Club
  • ·         annual curling bonspiel at the Edmonton Garrison Memorial Golf & Curling Club
  • ·         annual Do It for Dads fun run at Sir Wilfred Laurier Park to raise money for Prostate Cancer Canada
  • ·         annual Charitable Foundation events at the BTA Conference

Without question, however, the most popular way that the Charitable Foundation raises money is with our “Brass Pools” at Shell Scotford and at North West Redwater Refinery. These licensed raffles are held every two weeks and members buy tickets for a chance at taking home 70% of the total pot. The remaining 30% goes to the Charitable Foundation to be used to support various charities around Alberta.

Just to give you an idea of how generous BTA members are (and how popular the brass pools are), in 2015, almost $400,000 was awarded in prize money last year!

All of this work is on top of the truly awesome amount of community giving that each of our locals do, as well as the swelling of support when specific circumstances arise, like the wildfire in Wood Buffalo.

Long story short: anyone would be hard-pressed to find a group of people who care more about their communities and who work harder to support their brothers and sisters, and I, for one, am very proud to be associated with all of you.

Any comments about this blog or the charitable work that the BTA and our affiliate locals do, please contact us at

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Training and education are critical to the success of the Building Trades. Did you know that the affiliated Locals of the BTA have invested over half a billion dollars in Alberta in the last ten years for training and education? $200 million for facilities and infrastructure and $300 million in program development and delivery. 

So how does all that training and education take place? Many union locals have what are called “Training Trust Funds” (TTFs). These TTFs operate separately from the local itself and are controlled by a board of trustees, including representatives from the union as well as representatives from employers / industry. This type of joint labour / management oversight is critical to ensure that the skills that union members are developing are at the leading edge of industry demand. 

Why do unions take responsibility for training? Why don’t tradespeople just go to NAIT/SAIT or another vocational school to learn and develop their journeyman skills? First, it’s important to differentiate between apprentice training and journeyman upgrading. While some unions provide apprentice training, most work in partnership with technical schools such as NAIT or SAIT. TTFs generally focus on journeyman upgrading (although there are exceptions), helping ensure that the members of the union are trained in the latest developments and advanced technology, contributing to the “skilled trades advantage” that the BTA works so hard to promote. 

Additionally, joint labour / management oversight such as TTF reinforces the necessary partnership between employers and unions, resulting in more and better work opportunities for the membership. Better trained tradespeople have better access to better jobs. 

How are they funded? TTFs are typically funded by cents per hour contributions determined by the collective agreement. You will see this on your pay stub, and be glad that the investment in you is being made - world class training facilities help to create one of the most respected workforces in the world. The money is submitted to the TTF which uses the money to fund the administration and training for Local members, enabling you to enhance their skills and to become more valued tradespeople. 

Who benefits? Ultimately, you, as a member who participates in training opportunities created by your TTF will see the greatest benefit. You can gain valuable skills which make you more attractive as a skilled tradesperson and more effective on the worksite. Upgrading your skills is your responsibility as a tradesperson and a Union member. It benefits you directly by increasing your value, but also puts you in a position to provide valuable mentoring to less experienced members, ensuring the future success of your local. 

Additionally, you have the opportunity to pursue project management training, supervisory training, and steward training, among other options, should you wish grow your career beyond the tools and take on leadership roles on the worksite or within your local, or even further. 

If you haven’t taken the time to explore all the opportunities that are available to you, many locals provide training opportunities, so do some investigation – check out your Local’s website and invest in yourself. Make sure that you are taking advantage of the education and supports that exist. Participate in training programs, share what you have learned with others, and help lead your Local successfully into the future. The more education and training that takes place, the stronger we all are. 

Do you have any comments for me? Let me know at

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Well, the legislature has adjourned for the summer, meaning the MLAs are working from their constituency offices for the next four months or so. This presents a great opportunity for all of us. The job of the MLA is to listen to their constituents and to take action based on what they hear. Now is the time for us all to ensure that they hear our message!

On our website, we have some resources to help you get involved and take part in helping to direct the course of action that our provincial government will take. The most important resource for you that we can offer is our Policies and Positions book (available to view or download here) which outlines the point of view that the Building Trades of Alberta takes on a variety of issues which affect our current and future members. Take a moment to review it and familiarize yourself with it. We will be sending this same book to every MLA to ensure that they have easy access to our perspective as well.

Here is the part where you come in: connect with your MLA and talk with them about something in the book that really matters to you. If you aren’t sure who your MLA is, click here and find your riding. The more BTA members do this, the stronger our voice will be.

Getting involved, demonstrating leadership and modeling strong union membership is what will help ensure our success into the future. Showing the younger members what it means to be an engaged, positive force in your Local is how you can help make sure that your Local will continue to thrive once you are off the tools and hanging around swapping stories about how tough it was when you came up.

As the saying goes, Unions are like gyms, it’s not enough to have a membership. If you want to see real results, you have to put in some effort.

Let us know how you are getting involved and leading the way at

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The beast continues to burn. After nearly a month of consuming everything in its path, the wildfire that attacked Fort McMurray and the surrounding communities, displacing tens of thousands of Albertans as well as visitors, and destroying human and animal homes alike continues its march across northern Alberta and into Saskatchewan. As of 1430 on May 24, the fire covers 522,892 hectares, including 2,496 hectares in Saskatchewan. That’s as big as nearly eight Edmontons.

Nearly 2,000 firefighters, along with 88 helicopters, 253 pieces of heavy equipment and 25 air tankers are currently battling the fire. While we understand a voluntary phased re-entry to Fort McMurray is forthcoming, Fort McMurray, Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates, Fort McMurray First Nation and Fort McKay First Nation remain under a mandatory evacuation order. For up-to-date info, click here. The Red Cross is working night and day to support the people affected by the wildfire and is coordinating the efforts of people who are looking to help.

All of this effort is critical in dealing with the immediate needs of the people displaced by this disaster. But we all know that the effects of this terrible event will last for years. Once the flames are finally extinguished and the firefighters can rest is when the work for the rest of us begins. That’s why the Building Trades of Alberta is creating a volunteer registry for when the time comes to rebuild Fort McMurray and her neighbouring communities. Fort McMurray has, over the years, been referred to as a “Union Town”.  This is our opportunity to show Fort Mac what this towns unions look like, by standing up, standing together and working to rebuild this proud community.

The volunteer registry will form the core of manual support that the BTA and affiliated unions provide to communities affected by disasters like the one that is currently in progress, in addition to the millions of dollars collected and donated to the Red Cross by our members and Building Trades affiliates across Canada.

Do you want to pitch in when the time comes? Let us know. Please provide your name, Local and trade, along with how you think you would be able to help to us at and we will add you name to the list of men and women that Alberta can count on to stand up when they are needed. As organizing efforts progress, we will be sure to keep you in the loop.

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A lot of people are having a terrible week this week. People are losing their homes, their livelihoods and their possessions in the wildfires that are surrounding and engulfing Fort McMurray and the neighbouring communities. And the fire is not easing up – in fact, it appears to be getting stronger, so we can be sure that more will be lost. As of the time of this writing, there has been no loss of life due to the fire, and we can all pray that remains the case.

Devastating as events like this are, and as traumatizing as they can be to the people who are forced to deal with the viciousness of Mother Nature, events like this also have a galvanizing effect on the people of our province. Within minutes of notification of the wildfire approaching civilization, people were preparing and mobilizing; getting ready to help those in need. Just like when Slave Lake burned in 2011, and when southern Alberta flooded in 2013, Albertans banded together to help.

Regardless anyone’s political beliefs, ethnicity, sexuality, or favourite tv show, Albertans support Albertans.

What are you doing to help out? Are you opening your home to people left homeless? Are you buying supplies to donate to the relief centres set up all over the province? Are you planning to participate in the rebuilding of the city and neighbouring communities? Are you donating money to the Red Cross or some other group that is working to support people affected by this disaster?

The BTA and our 75,000 members are getting involved. Some of our Locals have even gotten support from the national offices of their union, along with all their sister Locals across the country. We are helping out in every way mentioned above, at the individual level, the Local level, the provincial level and country-wide.

Union members support each other and they support and protect the communities in which they live. Fort McMurray is a Union Town. Unions helped build the town and the Unions are stepping up to ensure that the pain, devastation and fear felt by people from Fort McMurray and their families is minimized. Unions will help build the town of Fort McMurray again.

Contact us at and tell us how you are supporting your fellow Albertans. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter and follow your Local on social media, to see how you can get involved, help out and show the power of working together.

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Working hard to create an environment in which BTA members can find and keep good, safe work, the Building Trades of Alberta took a big step forward on Tuesday when we hosted an Industry Reception for industry leaders, union leaders and government leaders, including the Premier herself!

All told, nearly 120 people attended, including 22 MLAs, 14 Ministers (including Labour, Energy, Advanced Education and Economic Development and Trade, as well as 16 other government representatives such as Deputy Ministers, Assistant Deputy Ministers and Chiefs of Staff. 30 presidents, CEOs / COOs and other senior leadership and government and labour relations professionals from organizations like Syncrude, Suncor, Enbridge, Capital Power, Keyera, NOVA Chemicals, Stantec, Shell, TransAlta, TransCanada and Northwest Refining also attended.

Trade Winds to Success, our proud partner working to help aboriginal youth explore and engage in the trades, along with the Resource Diversification Council were present, as well as 11 business managers and assistant business managers and 8 more representatives and agents from our Locals, plus CLRA and your team from the BTA.

Getting all of these people in the same room was a monumental task that was started in late fall last year and took many hours of coordinated effort from many different groups, but everyone involved agreed that the event was a huge success.

It created a forum for open dialogue between government, industry and labour – the likes of which have not taken place in recent years. This opportunity for the three main groups that need to collaborate in order to move the province forward by attracting investment, creating jobs and growing the Alberta economy was well worth the effort.

Some of the things we discussed include:

·         Resource diversification and the opportunities for economic growth and job creation that can be realized through value-added product development and refining our bitumen into higher grade, higher profit products. The government’s Petrochemical Diversification Program is an indication of their commitment to this issue, just like the Resource Diversification Council shows the commitment of both industry and labour to this issue. To this end, there was a lot of discussion around the need for the second phase of the Northwest Redwater Upgrader to proceed.

·         Market access is an absolute requirement if we as a province are going to be able to realize the gains we see as possible from our resource development. This includes getting our product to tidewater – especially via the Energy East pipeline.

·         Workforce development and apprentice and trades training are critical to the future success of industry. The primary purpose of the BTA, as well as the government, is to attract, develop, and supply the skilled workers required by our contractors and owners for decades to come. Collectively, Building Trades Union Joint Training Trust Funds have invested more than 500 million dollars into our training programs and facilities over the last ten years, and there are many gains to be made from working together to enhance opportunities for groups historically under-represented in the trades, such as the Aboriginal community, women and veterans.

·         Safety, as always, is an important topic – we used the event to help stress the importance that we place on safety in the workplace to the representatives from Alberta’s government and to give them an understanding and appreciation for the efforts labour and industry take to ensure members are able to go home to their families at the end of each shift.

·         We also took this opportunity to demonstrate the value that the BTA and our membership have to Alberta communities by discussing the fact that the Building Trades of Alberta Charitable Foundation, with the support of donors and sponsors, has donated over $6 million back into the communities we live and work in.

The value of the event cannot be understated. It was an opportunity for government officials to learn more about the Building Trades of Alberta and our affiliated unions and to see what we do and understand what a valuable partner we can be, along with industry, in building the province together, but it was also an opportunity for us and for industry to demonstrate our united vision and willingness and enthusiasm to partner up and get working. Relationships that were started and strengthened on Tuesday will help labour, industry and government work together over the next several years and move the province forward. 

What are your thoughts? What other things can be done to help create a province in which our members have all the safe, good quality work they want? Let us know what you think can help.

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In the last two blogs, we talked about what the BTA does to coordinate and promote the interests of our 16 affiliated unions, how we support our 75,000 members and how we work to enhance the environment that we all participate in through our constant efforts with relation to government and industry. Well, two weeks ago, a new organization was created, with the BTA sitting on the board. This new organization is dedicated to the advancement of petrochemical manufacturing and hydro-carbon refining in Alberta, with an end-goal of expanding the presence these industries have in our province and, as a result, create more jobs for skilled tradespeople. 

The Resource Diversification Council is a partnership between leaders of Alberta’s energy sector and labour and related industries which will help Alberta grow existing industries and create new ones, open up new markets internationally, support local job growth and continued apprenticeship opportunities, foster environmental leadership and develop new revenue streams for the Government and industry. 

All of these things benefit our membership in one way or another, which is why the BTA is so excited to be a part of this initiative. Other organizations represented on the RDC board include NOVA Chemicals, NW Refining, Williams, Keyera, Agrium, Stantec and CLR. 

Having a team that is composed of both industry and labour is key, because providing a united voice when talking with the government makes it far easier to be heard: if the government knows that labour and industry want the same thing, there is nothing left for government to do but find a way to make it happen. 

The Building Trades of Alberta is proud of the work that our members do and we are proud to work to support them through initiatives like the RDC.To learn more about the RDC, check out this article from the Edmonton Journal or visit the RDC website.  

What do you think about work like this? Do you agree that it is important to develop downstream opportunities and to perform more refining here in Alberta? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or at

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