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 May 2017      

 

“Consulting engineers can help Canada succeed” - ACEC to Federal Government 

 

Consulting engineers are critical to infrastructure success

In response to the slow pace of promised infrastructure investments from the federal government, ACEC President and CEO John Gamble will be meeting with the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Amarjeet Sohi. This will be in addition to a brief discussion with Minister Sohi in April at a breakfast hosted by the Economic Club of Canada.

While the recent federal budget reaffirmed the government’s commitment to infrastructure, the roll out of Phase 2 funding will have to await another round of negotiations with the provinces. Mr. Gamble has been expressing concern to the Government that notwithstanding the pending investments, much of the consulting engineering sector has experienced a 10% to 15% drop in their workforce over the past five years. “The government needs its infrastructure program to succeed in order to meet its long-term fiscal goals, but they need to understand that if we aren’t buying this year, it will delay the economic benefits they are counting upon,” according to Mr. Gamble.

ACEC is also looking to help the Federal Government with other aspects of its infrastructure plans, including the proposed Infrastructure Bank and other programs important to our industry. “They want to get this done, and we can help them.”

In addition to meeting with Minister Sohi, meetings have also taken place with members of the House of Commons Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, including Committee Chair Judy Sgro, Vice-Chair Luc Berthold and Committee members Vance Badawey, Sean Fraser and Ken Hardie. ACEC also met with NDP Infrastructure Critic Rachel Blaney. During these meetings, Mr. Gamble has emphasized that infrastructure investments have been slow and that member firms in most parts of the country have yet to see an increase in work, which delays both short term stimulus and the long-term economic benefits of infrastructure investments.

 

Canada’s resource sector needs support

ACEC believes that Canada needs a strong resource sector to be prosperous and has been meeting with members of the House of Commons Committee on Natural Resources which looks at issues related to Canada’s energy, forest, minerals & metals, and earth sciences sectors. MPs that John Gamble has met with include Committee Chair James Maloney, Vice-Chair John Barlow and member Michael McLeod. “The resource sector is critical to Canada’s prosperity, however it has also become politically contentious for some Canadians,” according to Mr. Gamble “we need to assure Members of Parliament that consulting engineers can help the resource sector be economically viable, and socially and environmentally responsible.”

Resource Committee members have shown significant interest in the ACEC collaboration with PDAC, the Mining Association of Canada and the Northwest Territories Chamber of Mines on the study Levelling the Playing Field: Supporting Mineral Exploration and Mining in Remote and Northern Canada which brings to light the unique challenges of doing business in the North. The committee members are also extremely interested in ACEC’s support for utility and transportation corridors.

 

The future of NAFTA

John Gamble participated in an Infrastructure/Government Procurement Consultation Group chaired by Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator Steve Verheul. Mr. Gamble represented the business interests of the consulting engineering sector during discussions on trade issues, labour mobility and professional recognition, with the US. “In addition to any direct consequences to our industry, the anticipated renegotiation of NAFTA could have significant implications for many of our sector’s clients, especially in manufacturing and natural resources,” noted Mr. Gamble. Furthermore, “we need to support the broader stakeholder community so that our clients continue to have a viable market place.”

Another major topic of discussion brought forth by ACEC was possible harmonization with the US Brooks Act as a viable approach to a harmonization of procurement between the two governments. The act mandates the use of QBS for procuring engineers and architects by the US Government and public agencies receiving federal funding for infrastructure. “In addition to preserving our current opportunities under NAFTA, we should be exploring opportunities to improve business for our industry” according to Mr. Gamble.

ACEC has also participated in a number of Canadian Chamber of Commerce roundtables on NAFTA for heads of business associations. These have included briefings with federal Treasury Board President Scott Brison and point person for Canada-US relations, Andrew Leslie, MP.

ACEC will continue to closely monitor this issue over the coming months and work with Global Affairs Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to ensure that our industry’s interests are represented in potential future negotiations.

 

Private Member bills update

ACEC has been tracking the progress of several private Member’s bills that could impact the business climate of the consulting engineering sector. Below is a summary of the status of two of these bills and the action ACEC has taken.

C-323: An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (rehabilitation of historic property)

This bill, which passed second reading in March by a small margin, has now been referred to the Environment and Climate Change Committee. It will give tax relief to owners that rehabilitate historic properties and create opportunities for some member firms. However, ACEC is concerned that only architects will be able to certify the rehabilitation of the properties. John Gamble sent a letter to the bill’s sponsor, MP Peter Van Loan, regarding ACEC’s position that consulting engineers should also be qualified to perform certification. The association will continue to monitor the bill’s progress, which will probably be revisited this fall when the House returns from summer recess.

S-224: An Act respecting payments made under construction contracts

This bill, introduced by Conservative Senator Don Plett, has passed second reading in the Senate and has been referred to Committee. Its intent is to provide for timely payment to contractors and designers working for government institutions, and to subcontractors under related subcontracts. If passed, the bill would require federal government institutions to make progress payments to a contractor for construction work on a monthly basis or at shorter intervals provided for in the construction contract. Further, it would require federal government institutions to pay the contractor on or before the 20th day following the later of (a) the last day of the payment period; or (b) the receipt of the payment application.

In discussions with Public Services and Procurement Canada, ACEC has worked to ensure that the ‘trigger’ for prompt payment will not subject engineering firms acting as agents of federal departments to inappropriate pressure to certify compensation to ensure timely payment to construction companies. ACEC wants to ensure that professional service contracts with the federal government do not shift the responsibility for compliance risk for prompt payment to its design consultants. We also confirmed that the bill would apply to Brookfield Global Integrated Services, in its capacity of managing federal government real property assets and administering design and construction contracts on behalf of the federal government.

 

The road ahead

With Parliamentarians scheduled to start their summer break at the end of June, we plan to double down on our efforts over the next few weeks to ensure the voice of consulting engineering is front and centre on issues that impact our sector – infrastructure investment, QBS, and the process for environmental assessments to name a few. Although Parliamentarians will be on break through July and August, we will pursue meetings with senior bureaucrats to ensure our voice continues to be heard on the issues that impact our sector.

Stay tuned to upcoming issues of Source for updates regarding our ongoing efforts to move the advocacy agenda forward. We hope that you’ll join our efforts through the Parliament Hill day meetings that will happen during the ACEC national leadership conference October 22nd to 24th. We also encourage you to participate in the Bring an MP to Work campaign.