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ACEC meets with Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi 

 

ACEC President and CEO John Gamble met with Federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Amarjeet Sohi on May 19th 2017, to further discuss the development and implementation of the government’s infrastructure plan as laid out in its last two Federal Budgets. The meeting was successful with a frank discussion and a collaborative spirit. This candid and respectful relationship between ACEC and the Minister’s office helps ensure that the industry’s views continue to inform the government’s approach to infrastructure investment and the infrastructure bank. Mr. Gamble applauded the government for its strong commitment to infrastructure investment and offered to work with the federal government and other stakeholders to ensure the success of the federal government’s ambitious plan.

However, Mr. Gamble noted that some infrastructure investments have been slow to enter the economy. While ACEC is confident that the investments will be forthcoming, Mr. Gamble stressed to the Minister that for the government’s vision for infrastructure to be realized, the economic benefits of these investments should be realized as soon as possible.

Mr. Gamble also pointed out that some elements of the federal infrastructure investments are “back end loaded” (particularly the New Building Canada Plan) and that if these investments could be more evenly distributed over the next ten years, engineering firms, construction companies and municipalities would be able to more effectively and efficiently manage their resources. Furthermore, economic benefits from these investments would be realized sooner.

Minister Sohi and Mr. Gamble also discussed the government’s focus on social infrastructure such as affordable housing. The Minister agreed that a balanced approach to investing in “social” and “economic” infrastructure is required but he also felt that failing to address current social infrastructure needs would limit the workforce and place a drag on the economy. Mr. Gamble responded that sufficient investments in “economic” infrastructure are required in order to create the capacity to make investments in social infrastructure.

Mr. Gamble emphasized the inherent ability of infrastructure to address environmental challenges and provide community benefits. However, he also expressed concerns that additional screening processes (particularly if they duplicate similar process at other levels of government) could further delay investments. He suggested that the objectives are better accomplished as clearly defined outcome requirements rather than through front end project screening.

Mr. Gamble also raised concerns over media speculation that the proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank would be subject to political interference in selecting projects. He strongly urged the government to ensure the Canada Infrastructure Bank has a clear mandate and strong governance, that can be a catalyst for additional infrastructure investments.