When looking back on the years 2020 and 2021, it is impossible to not consider the impact of COVID-19 on our industry, our communities and all of Canada. ACEC and its members struggled with difficult decisions and finding ways to do business differently – and in some cases better. Nevertheless, the impacts were profound, and the future continues to be uncertain.
Fortunately, ACEC had positioned itself well in the previous years to allow us to adapt to the circumstances resulting from the pandemic. With the leadership of its Board and the support of its members and partners, ACEC was successful through the 2020-2021 fiscal year – both in terms of its advocacy and financial position. Prudent decisions and sharpened focus allowed the association to remain committed to its vision, mission, and strategic priorities.
ACEC'S INITIAL RESPONSE TO THE CRISIS
As the country went into its first lockdown in March of 2020, ACEC quickly recognized the immediate need for action on behalf of the sector to assist businesses in protecting their employees and their immediate and long-term survival.
In the initial weeks of the crisis and through the ensuing months, the main messages ACEC stressed to the federal government included:
- that planning, design, construction and operation of important infrastructure are essential services nation-wide
- that infrastructure in general, and the consulting engineering sector in particular, are critical to Canada’s resilience to and recovery from crisis
- that our industry has significant capacity to work remotely to ensure the health and safety of employees and adherence to the government’s social distancing requirements
- that designing will need to start six months to two years before there are shovels in the ground should the government decide to drive stimulus through infrastructure
- that the federal government should continue implementing its infrastructure plans and encourage provinces and municipalities to stay the course on infrastructure
- in the longer term, to facilitate the recovery, accelerating/re-profiling infrastructure investments of existing programs from the later years into the next two or three years could result in a more even distribution of investments over the remainder of the program
- the important role and expertise our industry could play in assisting the government with its economic recovery plan
Our communication efforts included letters to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Safety, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, as well as the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade. ACEC joined with other leaders of the Canadian construction industry in support of temporary sick pay coverage in correspondence to the Prime Minister and also communicated with the PM in a joint letter with the Canadian Construction Association and the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships regarding the economic stimulus and the importance of moving infrastructure projects forward during and beyond the crisis.
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 the association’s COVID-19 policy position by capturing an accurate picture of the impact of the crisis on our industry.
MAKING OUR VOICE HEARD THROUGH COALITIONS
To strengthen and amplify our own outreach and advocacy initiatives and harmonize industry efforts, ACEC participated in targeted coalition building by collaborating closely with multiple stakeholder organizations. Along with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and over 60 other business associations across Canada, we took steps to protect and support business by joining the Canadian Business Reliance Network. With some of its stakeholder partners, ACEC also played a major role in the creation of the Building For Recovery coalition to conduct a grassroots advocacy plan around three core pillars: resources for communities, jobs for workers and improving quality of life. Member firms were encouraged to share a message of support with their local Member of Parliament and provincial representative to say that all levels of government need to work together for new projects, and for Canada’s recovery.
ACEC also participated in the Construction Industry Roundtable convened by the federal government that brought together stakeholder groups in the infrastructure and construction industry as well as senior government representatives, including civil servants, elected officials and political staff from Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), Infrastructure Canada, and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). ACEC is pleased to be at the table for these monthly meetings to ensure the voice of the consulting engineering sector was heard and continues to be considered as government looks to rebuilding the economy.
SHAPING POLICY FOR A STRONGER ECONOMY
As part of direct efforts to shape policy, ACEC invited Andy Fillmore, MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities to an exclusive digital townhall with the ACEC Board and CEOs of several member firms. This was an opportunity to discussion how the consulting engineering sector could help navigate the COVID-19 crisis and contribute to Canada’s economic recovery.
For it’s October virtual annual general meeting, ACEC hosted the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. Her participation allowed ACEC to continue to build on the strong relationship developed with the Minister and her office. During her address and subsequent Q&A, the Minister shared the government’s vision and plans for infrastructure investment moving forward.
To continue promoting the importance of infrastructure investments being timely and balanced between “social” and “economic” infrastructure, we conducted targeted advocacy outreach to moderate, “pro-business” Liberal Members of Parliament (MPs). We were pleased by the positive response we received and continued to meet with key stakeholders within the Liberal caucus to ensure ACEC’s key messages continued to permeate the government’s economic response.
ACEC submitted its 2021 Federal Budget Recommendations to the federal government to spur economic recovery and growth. In particular, the submission highlighted the need for investments that enable economic prosperity and a stable recovery, procurement best practices to achieve quality and innovation, the reinstatement of the National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure, the harmonization of federal and provincial approvals, and the implementation of a national corridor to accommodate multiple infrastructure assets.
ACEC also took part in a public consultation on the CEWS with a submission to help inform potential changes to the program in order to maximize employment and meet the needs of both employers and employees.
CREATING MEANINGFUL LOCAL CONNECTIONS
As COVID-19 forced many Parliamentarians to place an even higher priority on the concerns of businesses in their local communities, we relaunched our Parliamentary Partners Program to enhance our grassroots advocacy during this tumultuous time. In order to further strengthen ACEC’s advocacy efforts, the Parliamentary Partners Program was re-launched in fall 2020. The aim of this program is to build up the organization’s connections at the local level between various MPs and ACEC members across the country. This helps to demonstrate to elected officials in all regions of the country the important role that ACEC members play in their communities. Building these connections also works to expand the organization’s network of lobbying activities, while strengthening the advocacy capacity of the association.
CLIMATE CHANGE POSITION
Our member firms are leaders in climate change adaptation and mitigation. Their work is of critical importance to the development of greener communities. During its October 2019 meeting, the ACEC Board struck a committee to develop a position on climate change that would recognize the role our member organizations and member firms play to the development of a more sustainable world. Over the course of the year, the committee collaborated to develop the ACEC-Canada Climate Change Position, which was adopted by the Board in March of 2021.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TO SUPPORT MEMBER FIRMS
To compliment our advocacy efforts and directly support our member firms and their employees, online programs were launched in May 2020 to compliment our advocacy efforts and directly support our member firms and their employees. The first provided young professionals an online learning series to build essential skills required to successfully manage projects to profitability. In collaboration with our Maple Leaf partners, we also offered free business webinars to provide insights, tools, and resources to support member firms through the crisis and beyond. The Engineering Your Business Through COVID-19 series offered insights on topics such as cyber security, people and business strategies for a new reality; the session recordings are available to employees of ACEC members firms here.
BUSINESS PROGRAMS TO SUPPORT MEMBER FIRMS
After being delayed by COVID, the newly created CCDC-31 ‘Service Contract Between Owner and Consultant’ was released by the Canadian Construction Documents Committee (CCDC) in December 2020. CCDC-31 is a standard service contract for use between Owner and consulting engineer. Originally adapted from ACEC’s own Document 31, it has been updated in line with the existing CCDC principles and terminology, consistent with the CCDC-2. This contract allows for a variety of types of remuneration, including the use of fixed fees, fees based on the value of the work, fees based on time-based rates, or any combination therein. The CCDC-31 clearly outlines the scope of the Consultant’s Professional Services with Schedule A, which allows users to select the specific duties of the Consultant for the project. Also contained within the CCDC 31 are provisions addressing the roles and responsibilities of both parties, insurance requirements, dispute resolution, and more.