‘Not sur­pris­ing’

Nearly 200 re­buil­drelated Ser­vice Al­berta in­ves­ti­ga­tions ac­tive in re­gion.

Fort McMurray Today - - FRONT PAGE - VIN­CENT MCDER­MOTT To­day Staff vm­c­der­mott@post­media.com

The prov­ince has opened 269 in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­lated to con­struc­tion and re­build ac­tiv­i­ties in Fort McMur­ray since June 2016, with 194 of those cases re­lated to home build­ing or ren­o­va­tion work.

Since re­build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties be­gan fol­low­ing the May 2016 wild­fire, the ma­jor­ity of in­ves­ti­ga­tions have re­lated to pre­paid con­trac­tors and guar­an­tee­ing they have the proper li­cens­ing be­fore start­ing work.

Other is­sues that have been in­ves­ti­gated, said Ser­vice Al­berta spokesper­son Tina Faiz, has been mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of goods and ser­vices, “such as rep­re­sent­ing a gov­ern­ment af­fil­i­a­tion for goods or ser­vices when there wasn’t any.”

Other cases have in­volved claims made re­lated to build­ing time­lines.

“It’s pretty shock­ing to hear those num­bers, but it’s un­for­tu­nately not sur­pris­ing,” said Keith Plow­man, vice-pres­i­dent of the Fort McMur­ray Con­struc­tion As­so­ci­a­tion and owner of K. Plow­man Con­tract­ing. “Not every­one has been fol­low­ing all the rules they should be. I’ve seen some things around that would be termed as sketchy.”

So far, Al­berta Oc­cu­pa­tional Health & Safety says no fa­tal­i­ties or se­ri­ous in­juries re­lated to the re­build have been re­ported to them. There have also been no crim­i­nal charges is­sued, or any penal­ties re­lated to wages or the treat­ment of tem­po­rary for­eign work­ers made.

How­ever, sev­eral con­trac­tors were charged for un­li­censed pre­paid con­tract­ing, mean­ing they were be­ing paid for work they were not li­cenced to do.

OHS has also writ­ten 690 or­ders, with 189 stop work or stop use or­ders. There have been 17 tick­ets is­sued by the prov­ince and OHS in­spec­tors have re­sponded to 77 com­plaints.

The prov­ince did not pro­vide a break­down of where the com­pa­nies and con­trac­tors be­ing in­ves­ti­gated are based, al­though Plow­man says most com­plaints he has heard in­volve work­ers from out­side Fort McMur­ray.

A ma­jor con­cern he has is how well some de­vel­op­ers, par­tic­u­larly smaller con­trac­tors, will hon­our main­te­nance and war­ranty agree­ments once they leave Fort McMur­ray.

“A lot of times it seems these kind of fly-by-night guys come in to make a quick buck and leave again,” he said. “At the end, it’s the home­own­ers who suf­fer the most. They shouldn’t be on the tab if the con­trac­tor didn’t know what they were get­ting into.”

Ma­jor wild­fire-re­lated charges from Ser­vice Al­berta were to­wards land­lords in the weeks fol­low­ing the pub­lic re­open­ing of the city.

A first-ever charge un­der the Emer­gency Man­age­ment Act was made when a ten­ant’s rent was raised while rates were or­dered to be re­stricted.

Sev­eral land­lords were charged for breach­ing the Res­i­den­tial Ten­an­cies Act. Ex­am­ples of these charges in­cluded il­le­gal rent in­creases and evic­tions, and even lock­ing ten­ants out of their premises.

One land­lord was fined $7,000 - the largest ever fine against a land­lord in Fort McMur­ray - for in­ap­pro­pri­ately han­dling se­cu­rity de­posits from ten­ants.

“We have had investigators on the ground since the day af­ter re-en­try to make sure no one gets gouged or scammed,” said Ser­vice Al­berta Min­is­ter Stephanie McLean in an email.

ROBERT MUR­RAY/FORT MCMUR­RAY TO­DAY/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Through the view of an un­com­pleted win­dow, a con­struc­tion worker helps with the build­ing of a house at in the sub­di­vi­sion of Abasand Heights in Fort McMur­ray Alta. on Wed­nes­day May 3, 2017.

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