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Canada Fort McMurray firms to get preference on rebuilding contracts

The devastated neighbourhood of Abasand is shown after being ravaged by a wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alta., on May 13, 2016.

Jason Franson/REUTERS

The Alberta government says it will give preference to Fort McMurray businesses when it awards contracts to rebuild the fire-ravaged community.

Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous says businesses in the city were already struggling from the prolonged collapse in the price of oil.

He says the government will work with insurers and the Red Cross to help employers in the Fort McMurray area get back on their feet.

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Bilous says that will include working with local suppliers and giving preference to competitive bids from local firms.

The Fort McMurray Construction Association has complained that workers from the community are being overlooked for jobs, such as trucking supplies to the city.

Association president Charles Iggulden says his members, who are displaced right now, are frustrated and could use the work.

"The wildfire and subsequent evacuations have had a devastating impact on employers in the region," Bilous said in a release Thursday.

"We are committed to assisting employers in the Fort McMurray area to get access to the resources they need in their return to the community."

Sharlene Massie, CEO of a Calgary staffing firm, says her company had been given a contract by a cleaning company based in Mississauga, Ont., that would have allowed her to hire 55 local workers for a three-week job in Fort McMurray.

However, Massie says the contract was recently rescinded by the Ontario company, which said it was going with a B.C.-based firm to fill a total of 400 positions instead.

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Stacey Holden of Calgary, one of the Alberta workers, says the situation makes her angry.

"Alberta's economy is tanking right now," she says. "We could have really used the help and we have people here who are laid off for months and years and they would have helped out and it would have brought money back."

Tany Yao, the Wildrose MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, said during question period in the legislature Thursday that he struggles to understand why workers are being brought to Fort McMurray from outside the province.

"It's baffling that in a time of great need, and when many people in Fort McMurray are looking for work, that these jobs would be outsourced," he said.

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