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Canada Construction company faces 260 charges after failed Fort McMurray rebuilds

15:20  05 december  2019
15:20  05 december  2019 Source:   cbc.ca

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Fort McMurray residents were forced to flee a huge wildfire that destroyed much of their city in Canada’s Alberta province in May 2016. Subscribe to The

A group of condo owners in Fort McMurray have written to Alberta’s premier and taken to social media saying they’re facing financial ruin due to a Fort McMurray residents experience frustration with rebuild 2 years after massive wildfire. Benoit said the condo board has also announced that fees are

Service Alberta has laid 260 charges in connection with a failed construction project, which promised to rebuild homes incinerated by the 2016 wildfire in Fort McMurray. 

Now bankrupt Edmonton-based builder MCG Construction Ltd., MCG Building Systems Canada Ltd. and three individuals have been charged under the Consumer Protection Act of Alberta. 

An email from a Service Alberta investigator obtained by CBC confirms the accused parties have been served and are due in Fort McMurray Provincial Court on Friday. 

The slate of charges relate to unfair business practices including deceiving a consumer, suggesting that building products have attributes that they do not have, and telling customers that goods or services will be supplied within a stated period when the supplier knows or ought to know that they will not. The allegations have not been proven in court. 

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< Fort McMurray is rebounding more quickly than expected from the loss of 2,500 homes in a devastating wildfire last year, with one-third of destroyed houses now under reconstruction in the northern Alberta city. A new report by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says rebuilding has

“Residents of Fort McMurray should not expect to return home for an extended period of time,” reads a notice on the Alberta Government website. The residential estates of Fort McMurray , Beacon North Hill and Lower Townsite are no longer surrounded by thick greenery, as the fires left a ring of smoking

Service Alberta said it could not comment on the case because it's before the court.

The investigation, which dates back to 2017, involved 15 homeowners including Lorie Veitch who lost her three-bedroom, wood-framed home in the Abasand neighbourhood in the Fort McMurray fire. 

That home is still under construction, but MCG Construction is no longer the builder, instead Veitch is in charge. 

Veitch, who has no construction experience, said she was forced to become a licensed home builder after firing MCG Construction in 2017. 

a woman posing for a picture: Lorie Veitch, who lost her home in the Fort McMurray fire, says she doesn't understand how the company that was rebuilding her home could be allowed to go bankrupt when so many people had given the company money and hadn't gotten their homes built. © Provided by cbc.ca Lorie Veitch, who lost her home in the Fort McMurray fire, says she doesn't understand how the company that was rebuilding her home could be allowed to go bankrupt when so many people had given the company money and hadn't gotten their homes built.

The company had agreed to rebuild her home using fire-resistant pre-fabricated concrete and other materials. She said the company promised that she would be one of the first residents to move back into the neighbourhood. 

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A random inspection by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in 2017 found that her foundation wasn't heated during construction and Veitch refused to let MCG back on site and began demanding a Service Alberta investigation.

"My foundation was the only one that they put in and after they put it in I had to pull it out with my own money at $34,000," Veitch said in an interview with CBC News on Wednesday.

Veitch has sunk about $300,000 into the build, all the while she's been paying the mortgage and rent on another home, at a cost of about $5,000 a month. 

She said she had to pull one of her children out of college because she couldn't pay for it anymore. 

"I've pulled out everything. Every credit card is maxed," said Veitch. 

With MCG Construction filing for bankruptcy last year, there is no chance of recovering her lost deposit or pursuing the matter in civil court. 

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When the Fort McMurray and surrounding community was left reeling from the recent wildfire disaster, it wasn't just Alberta communities, governments and the Canadian Red Cross that pitched in to help out. The home building industry in the province also stepped up to lend a helping hand.

Two years after a massive wildfire ripped through Fort McMurray , the rebuild WATCH ABOVE: Two years after a huge wildfire tore through Fort McMurray , some say rebuilds of their Construction crews busily work on houses. New basements are dug. The only reminders of the fire are the charred

Veitch said she hopes this court case will stop the company from doing this to anyone else. 

She also hopes her ordeal will prompt legislative changes that ensure construction companies are held accountable. 

"I've had to take every single cent of my retirement out to build this house or the bank was coming to take it," she said

"I'm just hoping that now our system is going to go forward because they let them go bankrupt and I don't understand how." 

a person lying on the floor: Lorie Veitch's house is still a construction zone. The build is about 80 per cent complete. © Provided by cbc.ca Lorie Veitch's house is still a construction zone. The build is about 80 per cent complete.

Fort McMurray lawyer Christine Burton who has six of the affected families as clients said the MCG build was troubled from the beginning. 

Some of her clients paid up to $300,000 in individual deposits to the company and "never got their homes back," Burton said.  

Homeowners grew increasingly concerned with the stalled construction of their new homes and began seeking legal advice in 2017, she said. The following year, they received notice that the company and its affiliate had filed for bankruptcy, she said.  

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The condo board overseeing a rebuild of a Fort McMurray building destroyed in a 2016 wildfire is Jody Smith works as a construction specialist with Syncrude and is one of the condo owners and indicated Fort McMurray residents experience frustration with rebuild 2 years after massive wildfire.

Fort McMurray “is the only place you can go, sink 10 years of your life and bank enough money to retire,” said Kevin Lewis, 55, the owner of a transportation company . Residents, including local politicians, are committed to rebuilding , but questions remain about what Fort McMurray will be.

"People had used their insurance proceeds to put deposits down on these houses and nothing happened, nothing happened," Burton said.  

"There was no construction. The municipality had issued building permits on a couple of them … that's when I followed up [with] the Canadian Standards Association to see if these concrete panels had been approved for residential construction and that's when I found out they were not." 

Burton said her clients are relieved about the charges but frustrated by delays in the investigation and a bankruptcy declaration that prevents any further civil action against the company.  

"This was way too late," Burton said.  "We understand, they had to do their investigation, there was a mountain of information,  but if they had stepped in earlier and protected these consumers maybe these people would not have lost their deposits or more families wouldn't have been sucked in.

"There were a lot of creditors with these two companies and our clients got nothing." 

MCG Construction will be in court on Friday for its first appearance. 

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