The National Association of Master Plumbers, Gas, Steam and Hot Water Fitters of the Dominion of Canada had appointed J.H. Wilson of Toronto vice-president responsible for British Columbia, which had yet to form an association. Wilson contacted 41 master plumbers throughout the province and the following year his efforts resulted in the formation of local associations in Vancouver and Victoria.
A provincial association that would eventually become the Mechanical Contractors Association of B.C. was formed in 1905. Headed by J.J. Coughlan of Victoria, its 35 members represented about 90 per cent of plumbing firms in the province.
The new association focused on improving bylaws regulating plumbing, enhancing training for apprentices, and maintaining good relations with manufacturers and suppliers.
The original organization dissolved in the wake of the First World War, but plumbers in Vancouver came together in the 1920s as the Master Plumbers Association. It eventually became the Vancouver Sanitary and Heating Association, taking the lead not only in matters of public health but also producing a price guide.
The Second World War was a watershed for contractors. The formation of the Wartime Prices and Trade Board saw plumbers and related trades engaged to assist the war effort through the organization of materials. Their input was also solicited regarding prices. To ensure a more effective liaison between government and industry, members of the sector formed the National Association of Master Plumbers and Heating Contractors of Canada in 1942. Meetings in New Westminster, Vancouver and Victoria established a base of members, many of whom had been active in the old Vancouver Sanitary and Heating Association.
The postwar years saw the Association change its name more than once as it evolved from an organization intended to support the war effort into a revitalized trade association. Members adopted the current name (Mechanical Contractors Association of British Columbia) in 1972.
The B.C. chapter enjoyed significant growth through the 1960s, expanding its offices and seeking a greater public profile. Its original offices at 342 West Pender Street were abandoned first for 17 East Broadway then 1128 West Georgia Street, where the association maintained a 1,200-square-foot showroom of plumbing fixtures and other equipment.
At the association’s current headquarters in Burnaby, Dana Taylor says the association continues to serve as a voice for its members.
“We’ll always be a spokesman,” he says, noting that it makes sense to have a single organization represent the concerns of the eclectic mix of companies that hold membership.
They are a linch pin in the design of a building, and even more so as buildings become more sophisticated. Though mechanical systems represent just 10 to 15 per cent of a building’s value of being a member of the association.
“Mechanical contractors realize a link to the association is important for long-term, overall business success. If you’re going to be in commercial, industrial, institutional work, chances are you’re going to bump into MCABC.”