- corruption, especially in QC
- over-the-top safety requirements, regardless of project size. E.g. in Toronto every road work sight has a police officer present who’s just standing there bored out of their mind. In Montreal it’d be two persons on each side holding a flag - a job in Europe replaced by a temporary semaphore.
- lack of experience and expertise. Canada is a relatively young country with very few major infra projects under its belt.
- lack of funding due to low density. You just can’t build ambitious infra projects for such sprawling city design. Every city, except Montreal to some degree, suffers from urban sprawl and low density.
- lack of care by citizens. Most Canadians aren’t well travelled outside of Americas. They don’t know what good cities look and feel like. Even when they go on vacations it’s generally cheaper destinations in southern parts like Cuba, Mexico and Dominicans.
Québec had an inquiry¹ and found large-scale systematic corruption. Other provinces… haven't looked.
How very Canadian!
If you think corruption is bad in Quebec, look at BC. One of the first things our current government did was to pass a law requiring that all government-funded construction must be performed by workers belonging to unions which donated to the governing party's last election campaign. A short time later, they changed the procurement rules from "lowest cost bid" to "best bid", with the rules for determining "best" explicitly including how many jobs would be created for members of the aforementioned donor unions.
The reality is for big projects quality should always be part of the contract. Use substandard quality materials and the whole contract is void.
The problem is that "agree on a level" and "lowest cost" are fundamentally opposite goals which require constant outside monitoring.
It's true that (a) workers must join a union when working on gov't projects and (b) The governing NDP is the "pro-union" party and thus, has received millions of donations from said unions.
The last part of what you wrote is worded poorly IMHO. Read literally, it seems to imply that donating to the party's campaign is part of the law itself. Which it isn't.
I agree, the effect is pretty much the same (due to (a) and (b) above) but I think it's important to clarify that point.
I’m not pro-union but unions aren’t the devil.
Gawd. As if Canadians are too dumb to go to international conferences like everybody else. Maybe they wouldn't let us in because we are wearing toques and speak in funny accents.
Source: I am an American who has visited Chicago 3 times and hated it more and more each time due to prices, crime, horrible weather, and extreme lack of anything to do
It’s the original skyscraper city with an absolutely wonderful skyline and architecture. Being in the city during a blizzard is magical, and the weather on a nice summer day. Tons of parks and pristine coastline. One of the best food and shopping scenes anywhere. World class museums. Also, it’s certainly cheaper than SF/LA/NYC. There is a lifetime of things to experience in Chicago.
Source: someone's who's spent more time in Chicago than someone's who's visited a handful of times.
Of course you'd like it, you're used to the place. The city is called "the windy city" for a reason, and is certainly not known to have weather resembling southern California. If you like it, that's fine, but not everyone likes cold, windy midwestern weather.
For prices, your experiences are simply invalid. The OP was likely talking about prices he'd see as a visitor, the large part of which would include hotel rooms. Do you spend a lot of time in hotels near your home? Of course not. And if the OP is comparing various international cities, then I can see why he'd complain about Chicago: it's a large American city and would likely have extremely high hotel prices, because hotels in America are generally very expensive unless you want to stay in a roach motel. It's much cheaper, as a single traveler, to stay in most of western Europe (except probably Switzerland).
The "Windy City" thing has little to do with our weather; winds are empirically worse in New York and San Francisco. If you have almost no experience with the city, it's easy to project and extrapolate from its nickname.
But you're not allowed to say that "the wind" is why you don't like Chicago.
(Fair warning, I have our city's flag inked on my arm, so I may be a booster).
It is a kickass flag, to be fair.
Well New York isn't exactly famous for great weather either...
It’s like saying you can become a good programmer and have a good company culture by going to conferences.
It ain’t going to happen.
Once you have N years, and see and solve X problems you won’t be experienced.
When you first start, you don't even know what you don't know. All the conferences in the world aren't going to help you if you don't know which problems you need help solving.
Quebec removed a blindfold with the Charbonneau Commission.
A sincere question: have other provinces done the same recently? What did they discover?
> - over-the-top safety requirements, regardless of project size. E.g. in Toronto every road work sight has a police officer present who’s just standing there bored out of their mind.
How much does that add to a project that costs 9-10 digits?
> - lack of experience and expertise. Canada is a relatively young country with very few major infra projects under its belt.
What's your definition of "major infra projects?"
Canada is geographically enormous, with extreme climate and terrain, and clustered populations. Yet somehow they've built infrastructure for a modern, vibrant economy.
70 years of remote hydro-electric plants and a transmission network for half a dozen provinces and states.
50 years of nuclear power plants in half a dozen countries.
A counter example for corruption (Canada is currently removing another blindfold), but about a century of bridges, tunnels, highways around the world.
> - lack of care by citizens. Most Canadians aren’t well travelled outside of Americas.
> They don’t know what good cities look and feel like.
Edit: typo & clarity
Sorry to digaree but he Charbonneau Commission did very little, corruption is still a huge problem in QC, it's part of the culture ..like Italy.
Pretty sure "every road work site" cost a few digits less.
These police details are paid by the organization doing the work. Condo developers, public utilities, and municipal public works departments all pay the same rates.
This stuff is expensive. It cost hundreds of millions of dollars US during the Big Dig. Our local radio humorists Tom and Ray Maggliozi might have said, lots of police "put their boats through college" in those days.
About 30 minutes later when the lane opens we get about half a mile down the zone and saw that the cop was only able to stop this nut job after her path was blocked by machinery and materials. She was cuffed, sitting on the hood of her car completely zoned out. Her friend was still in the passenger seat. They couldn't have been older than 20. My money was on club/party drugs they couldn't handle and freaked out while waiting in traffic.
just for some context:
> The Central Artery/Tunnel Project (CA/T), commonly known as the Big Dig, was a megaproject in Boston that rerouted the Central Artery of Interstate 93 (I-93), the chief highway through the heart of the city, into the 1.5-mile (2.4 km) Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel. The project also included the construction of the Ted Williams Tunnel (extending I-90 to Logan International Airport), the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge over the Charles River, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway in the space vacated by the previous I-93 elevated roadway. Initially, the plan was also to include a rail connection between Boston's two major train terminals. Planning began in 1982; the construction work was carried out between 1991 and 2006; and the project concluded on December 31, 2007 when the partnership between the program manager and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority ended.
> The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in the US, and was plagued by cost overruns, delays, leaks, design flaws, charges of poor execution and use of substandard materials, criminal arrests, and the death of one motorist. The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 1998 at an estimated cost of $2.8 billion (in 1982 dollars, US$6.0 billion adjusted for inflation as of 2006). However, the project was completed in December 2007 at a cost of over $8.08 billion (in 1982 dollars, $14.6 billion adjusted for inflation, meaning a cost overrun of about 190%) as of 2006. The Boston Globe estimated that the project will ultimately cost $22 billion, including interest, and that it would not be paid off until 2038. As a result of a death, leaks, and other design flaws, Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff—the consortium that oversaw the project—agreed to pay $407 million in restitution and several smaller companies agreed to pay a combined sum of approximately $51 million.
I know Worksafe programs are similar from province to province, so I would be curious to see a comparison of Canadian Worksafe safety standards to safety standards from around the world to see just how much more (or less?) onerous they are.
If so, your comment of " just constantly adds on new rules and regulations every year, and they don't care about your company's budget or productivity." could be read to acknowledge that it's not the government's job to preserve a company's budget or productivity, but rather preserve their citizens' right to a safe work environment.
In a perfect world, profit and safety could align but when they don't I'm not sure it's fair to chastise an organization for upholding their competing interest. The above can be all disregarded if Canadians don't have similar rights, it was just a thought.
EDIT to add: example of QC bidding: most companies underbid the construction work to later postpone the deadline and request more money than originally bargained, and there doesnt seem to be any (enforced) legislation to consider that
Lack of experience and expertise is not the issue.
This is due to the safety at all costs fallacy that dominates popular politics.
One other factor is capture by unions, although that could fall under corruption. It's a high level form of corruption involving swaying public opinion to accept union narratives about the good done by their control of labor forces.
Taking your own salary obviously isn't corruption nor even outright banditry - the intended function is personal enrichment. Nor is voting in your interest even if short sighted and likely to cause future problems.
Similarly demanding construction helmets diverts resources but keeping workers safe is a legitimate goal. Even if the demands were extreme and inefficient like demanding the development and manufacturing of power armor to paint a shed in case a piano falls on them or a moose attacks while irrational, terribly inefficient, and stupid wouldn't be corruption per se.
Now the armor demand because of kickbacks? Doing shoddy work for repeat customers or harming others directly for their own gain? Definite corruption.
No I wasn't categorizing demands for safety standards as corruption. The safety point was separate from my point about unions.
I was categorizing the misleading of the public to get a political party elected that enables one's own union to fetch above-market wages for oneself as something like high-level corruption, though maybe 'corruption' in the public policy context has a more specific definition that doesn't include this.
Nonsense. Canada is a major engineering power, building large projects the world over. One of the world's top 5 engineering firms, SNC-Lavalin, is located there.
Wait? We need to have 14th century church building experience to be considered experienced at building infrastructure?
In contrast America was the first country in the world to build subways on a mass scale. Yet today it has by far the highest subway construction cost in the world. At least an order of magnitude higher than South Korea.
I'm skeptical that aggregate experience on a national-level at decade-scale makes any major difference.
As soon as the government gets involved in a public construction/renovation project costs sky rocket. I can only attribute it to bureaucracy, corruption, and indifference since the tax payers pockets are endless. Contractors all have to be Unionized (good/bad?), it seems there is no urgency to do anything quickly or in a cost effective manner.
When you look at the renovations on the subway taking place at Royal York Station, it's comical. The project shouldn't take more than 3-6 months but it seems they want to drag out the job so they can retire after it's complete in 20-30 years. Runnymede Station took about 5 years and I'm not sure they're finished. Something like pulling up 200 sq/ft of tile can take a 1-2 months of 2-3 guys working 8 hours a day.
This is what happens when there is corruption with no oversight and the source of payment is the tax payers pocket.
Large civil projects are more complex than home renovation projects and are thus less likely to be accurately assessed by our simple planning heuristics. (see "the planning fallacy"). Each gap in the actual vs. planned outcome requires change-orders that slow down schedules and cost more money.
So 200 square ft of tile takes three months because the tilers are hired by the tiling company who is hired by the contractor hired to finish the walls who was hired by the main contractor who was hired by the construction company. Along this long chain someone schedules tiling on the same day the electricians are wiring up the lights. They reschedule and crew arrives only to find the materials are missing, no one knows who ordered them or who to talk to. Once they sort that out and get the materials delivered the project is put on hold because someone stubbed their toe on a box of tiles and a stop work order is issued. A safety inspector arrives with the cast of CSI miami to figure out who to blame. Meanwhile, while everyone is busy blaming each other, the tiling contractor steals the materials for another job and everything goes right back to square one. Now multiply this story by the number of individual items to be coordinated... All this while, the crew has to be paid for their time even though they couldn't work. Absolute madness.
As you've described, what is going on is corruption due to lack of oversight.
Take crane operations for instance. An organization may require union crane operators as a means of oversight to help guarantee trained and certified operators for a hazardous operation. However, this often has unintended consequences as union crane operations may also require positions like a crane oiler, which are largely obsolete in modern equipment.
I don't think that constitutes corruption because it's completely transparent and above board, even if unwise.
These problems seem complex and may truly be, but if they lead to payment for nonperformance then that needs to be addressed. I expect the market can figure it out from there.
Even while I have libertarian leanings, I would be hesitant to "expect the market can figure it out" largely because of asymmetries of information and the tendencies of present bias in making decisions, especially those with a profit incentive.
>The failure to think about how hard it is to put stuff together when other people are involved. And so that can make the planning fallacy bigger and badder when there are teams of people trying to finish work on time.
This article could be condensed to a table.
These contractors have a game theoretic choice to make: either they work hard to compete on price, or they inflate their budgets and count on their competitors to do so too, safe in the knowledge that there’s enoigh projects going around that everyone can have a nice fat slice of pie.
Theoretically a new competitor could enter the market and eat everyone’s lunch, but... all the institutional knowledge on how to build a train line or aircraft carrier belongs to the big players and it’s too hard to enter.
The difference in construction costs between various different markets seems to just be different game theoretic equilibria at work.
You are right about the scale of the big players making it hard for upstarts to compete. One of the most straightforward ways to still get competition, is to make it possible (or even easy!) for foreign companies to bid.
Comparing rail lines to aircraft carriers is ridiculous and discredits your entire post.
If everyone inflates their price the one who inflates it the least wins. That's not how the industry actually works. its far more common to bid low and try to make up the profit in claims.
You know nothing about this industry and its obvious from your writing.
It is not only about upfront costs, ongoing maintenance is important as well, and one needs certain level of density for the infrastructure to be a bit closer to self-sustainable
The roadways are a nightmare of poor construction and tons of detours.
The thing that bugs me the most is that they can’t seem to get the hang of painting lines properly on the roads. Lines painted last 2 months at most, then are gone. I was driving this weekend on 3-4 land highways, that curve around corners and have no lines painted.
Luckily our public transit is decent so I don’t normally have to drive.
This is due to federal environmental standards; the old oil paints that actually worked are banned.
It’s just more expensive.
I don’t really understand how that can be the blocker in a city with strong economic activity, high income taxes, high fuel taxes, and high property taxes (>4% in our downtown core on non-residential properties).
Google 'mafia', 'phoebus cartel', and many other examples of skimming, profiteering, and collusion to fix prices.
Labour's share of GDP has roughly stayed constant. GDP per capita has increased, both real and nominal.
However, in the late 20th century—after many decades of relative stability—the labor share began to decline in the United States and many other economically advanced nations, and in the early 21st century it fell to unprecedented lows.
PS: In terms of overall GDP a numbers (edit: not real data) 21% vs 17% may seem more or less stable but that’s a 20% drop or roughly all inflation adjusted per capita GDP growth over the last 20 years.
But looking at the graphs, there seems to have indeed been a big drop in the labour share since the dot com boom.
If I remember right, the capital share has been stable. But the share going to real estate has exploded.
And that's likely for the same underlying reasons construction costs have skyrocketed. See https://www.brookings.edu/bpea-articles/deciphering-the-fall... and https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2014/02/03/1759582/piketty-and-t...
Anyway, it’s 1AM so I am a little out of it.
However, the FED induced inflation in assets has made everything out of control.
NYC has had skyscrapers going up left and right the past decade: Central Park, 111 West 57, One Vanderbilt, 432 Park, 30 Hudson, 3 World Trade, 53W53, 35 Hudson, One57, 1 Manhattan, 220 Central Park South, 15 Hudson, 125 Greewich, 425 Park, etc.
All of those are taller or nearly as tall as the tallest buildings in all of Canada. In one US city. What does that prove?
I don't believe that. If you look at Manhattan alone, you'll see something very different. Unlike many other cities (particularly in the US, but also other places), NYC is basically a collection of cities. Manhattan is dense, but Staten Island is definitely not, so that drags down the average density. It's not fair to compare that with many other places.
I spent two years and $25,000 to just get to the point of having building permits. The most egregious part was that I had to pay the city around $3,000 to cut down a tree on my own property, because due to a city bylaw, I did not own the tree, the city did, and I had to pay them for their "loss".
The bureaucratic nonsense and nickel and a dimeing people to death with multiple fees and taxes, added with the premium cost of materials, makes building far more expensive than it needs to be.
Builders chargé maximum what they can.
Home prizes has increased rapidly in Canada, some say possibly to a bubble level.
Banks create new debt out of nothing through fractional reserve banking. Central banks support negative interest rates.
A conseque of low interest rates is that many can afford to borrow to high real estate prices.
The high real estate prices drive up building costs, since builders can charge higher prices. Ie want a piece of the cake.
Neither the article or HN comments (so far) mention supply and demand.
And fixed fee contracts? What planet? I don't know of anyone who has built anything in the last decade or two that hasn't gone over budget. If you're buying materials through the developer they're taking a margin.
Of course the point is no builder would take the above risk unless he could estimate his costs with enough accuracy to ensure that he makes a profit on the deal.
Edit: Note that builders build enough houses to have processes and procedures to estimate them. If you build anything to a standard such that it is like everything else that is vastly cheaper than if you build something unique. There is a lot of ways to make a house custom within the standard, but if you want a round tower that will cost because builders don't know how to make round (but settle for octagon and suddenly you are back to standard)
Just doesn't seem like an analysis with enough detail.
eg Sydney purchased surplus trams from Spain. To create a tramline from Randwick to the city (25min bus trip) has already cost USD 2,100 Million (AUD 3,100 Million) and is years late. Spain did the whole line for USD 115 million.
I realize I'm being downvoted but you have to realize that most of the developed world has a great standard of living but a new build 4 bedroom house on a 1/4 acre of land is completely unaffordable for most people.