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Impact of COVID-19 crisis on the consulting engineering industry

Recent member survey provides understanding of how industry has fared through the crisis to date.


Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, ACEC-Canada has worked diligently to support our member firms. As the national association for the sector, we have been advocating to the federal government in the interest of our industry as a whole and for firms like yours. Our message to the government has been clear - the consulting engineering industry will be key to post COVID-19 economic recovery and their support for our industry will ensure we are best positioned to aid in these efforts.

To strengthen our message, ACEC reached out to the leadership of our member firms to understand the various impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the Canadian consulting engineering industry. Through a short survey, real-time data was collected to help strengthen ACEC-Canada’s COVID-19 policy position by capturing an accurate picture of the impact of the crisis on our industry. Click here to view all of the survey results or see below for a summary of the results.

Summary Survey Results

In all, close to 50 firms participated in the survey (English and French) conducted in late May to early June. Most respondents were from firms with either less than 100 employees or more than 500 employees, with offices in each province and territory. Over half the responding firms work primarily in the commercial market and the majority - 77% of respondents - offer primarily planning and design services.

Overall, the results indicate that the consulting engineering industry weathered the first months of the crisis better than many other industries:

  • - Almost all respondents indicated their anticipated revenue losses due to the crisis to be less than 50%

  • - Over half the respondents are somewhat concerned or concerned regarding the long-term sustainability of their firm

  • - While half of the survey participants had to lay off staff, the layoffs were less than 5% of their total employees


The survey also touched on the impact of the federal government’s various emergency relief programs, whether they were utilized and if they were helpful in supporting our member firms through the crisis. The responses to this section of the survey show that a third of respondents were approved for programs they applied to, a third were not and many had not yet applied although it was under consideration. Further analysis of the results shows:

  • - Of all of the programs, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) was the one for which the highest number of survey participants qualified for

  • - For those who qualified for CEWS, 50% were able to avoid lay offs

  • - Close to half of the respondents did not qualify for the Emergency Business Account program

  • - Over 70% of respondents did not qualify for the Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program


Many participants expressed that while they did not qualify for the CEWS program because their revenue shortfalls did not meet the program criteria or the original eligibility period. 

When asked about their experience with applying to the programs, responders were split; many indicated they had a positive experience, especially with the CEWS program, while other respondents expressed their frustration with the complexity of the application process and the time required to complete it.

Finally, when asked where ACEC advocacy efforts should be focused with regard to the COVID-19 crisis, the vast majority of respondents supported ACEC’s focus on infrastructure investment as a vehicle to stimulate the economy. Furthermore, the information collected was consistent with what other sectors have been experiencing and it strengthened ACEC’s advocacy efforts to improve federal assistance to business. Consequently, ACEC welcomed the announcement by the Minister of Finance that CEWS would be extended to end of December as it will provide continued relief to firms who already qualified and opportunity to apply for firms who did not have revenue shortfalls as required in the first phase of the program. 

ACEC-Canada continues to advocate on the need for infrastructure investments from the existing Investing in Canada plan to be accelerated into 2020 and 2021 to ensure the consulting engineering industry can retain capacity in the coming months to support economic recovery. Working in collaboration with other industry stakeholders, ACEC is ensuring this message is heard in the government led construction industry roundtable. It was also discussed during a round table meeting with the Parliament Secretary for Infrastructure which recently took place with leaders from the ACEC membership. 


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