The 2022-2023 fiscal year was a busy time for ACEC-Canada. From driving smart government policies to promoting the incredible contributions of consulting engineering companies, we took every opportunity to advocate for our members and strengthen our industry.
While COVID-19 is mostly behind us, residual impacts such as economic unpredictability, supply chain issues, and labour shortages were still felt by many. But, as always, our members faced these challenges with technical excellence and innovative problem-solving, and their work continued to benefit communities in Canada and around the world. With an exciting year ahead of us, let’s take a look at the past fiscal year and what we accomplished together.
Deepening Strategic Relationships at the National Level
ACEC continues to be a trusted and influential partner to the federal government, and we have done significant outreach with parliamentarians and officials over the past fiscal year. We’ve seen increased engagement based on our renewed efforts, particularly as more decision-makers have returned to Ottawa in person following COVID-19.
In the spring of 2022, the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation and Communications undertook a study on the effects of climate change on critical infrastructure and how we can adapt to ensure more resilience in the industry. This was the perfect opportunity for ACEC to highlight the benefits of the National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA) as essential to a long-term infrastructure plan, as well as Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) as the most efficient and effective procurement process. We met with one of the committee members, Senator Jim Quinn (New Brunswick), in June. Senator Quinn was very open to ACEC’s perspective on the importance of the NIA to understanding the state of Canada’s infrastructure, which led to a positive discussion on the need for procurement reform.
In May 2022, ACEC submitted recommendations to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources for their study on creating an equitable energy transformation. We also met with the Committee Chair, MP John Aldag, to discuss our recommendations, which included a push for QBS and for the NIA to be implemented as quickly as possible. Our discussion also made it clear that consulting engineering firms have an important role to play in the transition towards to a low-carbon future.
When it comes to procurement reform, ACEC continues to engage with the Office of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement. In May 2022, ACEC released an executive summary of recent studies on QBS that provide solid evidence that the best qualifications – not the lowest price – lead to better financial, environmental, and social outcomes. These studies serve as excellent reinforcement to our ongoing advocacy to promote QBS.
ACEC continues to work with the federal government on the development, scope, and mandate of the NIA. In May 2022, we met with Nathan Bessner, then Policy Advisor to former Infrastructure Minister Dominic LeBlanc, where he affirmed that the NIA remains a priority for the government. He noted its potential to help the government achieve their goals of building more sustainable communities while fostering economic growth. We continue to have meetings with Infrastructure Canada, as well as the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy, giving feedback as the NIA is developed and encouraging officials to accelerate its implementation.
When Pierre Poilievre was named leader of the Conservative Party of Canada in September 2022, he immediately set to work building his team in Ottawa. ACEC wrote letters of congratulations to the new Shadow Ministers whose portfolios were relevant to infrastructure and the consulting engineering industry. Since then, ACEC has secured meetings with many Shadow Ministers, including MP Tracy Gray (Shadow Minister for Employment, Workforce Development and Labour), MP Dan Muys (Shadow Minister for Transport), MP Michael Barrett (Shadow Minister for Ethics and Accountable Government), and MP Kelly Block (Shadow Minister for Public Services and Procurement). During these meetings, ACEC discussed many priorities for our industry including long-term infrastructure investments, procurement reform, and capacity building for municipalities.
ACEC was recently identified as a key stakeholder by the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister and was invited to participate in consultations reviewing the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) Act. The CIB was established five years ago with the mandate to invest in and seek private capital in infrastructure projects that are in the public interest. ACEC took this opportunity to reiterate the urgency of the NIA in planning infrastructure investments, as well as the need for the CIB to leverage other available models as opposed to simply relying on PPPs for project delivery.
Throughout early 2023, ACEC targeted engagements with parliamentarians from the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, as well as the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. ACEC representatives met with Liberal MP Churence Rogers, Bloc Québécois MP Sylvie Bérubé, Liberal MP Vance Badawey, and the Chief of Staff to Liberal MP Peter Schiefke. ACEC took these opportunities to highlight the value of the NIA, QBS, building capacity to deliver infrastructure by reinstating the InfraGuide, and other important issues for the consulting engineering sector. ACEC also met with several civil servants, including Policy Director Miled Hill and Senior Policy Advisor Ninu Forrest from the office of former Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.
Defending Your Opportunity to Participate in Federal Procurement
After the federal government released a new procurement policy in spring 2022 requiring engineering and architecture documents to be submitted in both official languages, ACEC responded quickly and voiced our concern about its unintended consequences—notably, precluding hundreds of consulting engineering firms from participating in federal procurement. We reached out to the federal government outlining this issue, along with our view that this would lead to higher project costs, extended delivery delays, and significant increases in both commercial and professional liability. We put forth pragmatic recommendations along with our provincial member organizations to ensure that member firms have the opportunity to participate in federal procurement. Public Services and Procurement Canada has expressed openness to our recommendations, and have committed to working closely with ACEC and our industry on this critical matter.
To bolster its advocacy, ACEC has engaged Nanos Research to conduct third party research into the impact of the recent federal policy change requiring engineering and architecture firms to provide tender documents in both official languages on all federal government projects in all regions:
• Online survey of ACEC members (and possibly other professional service firms), including questionnaire design, tabulations, and a summary report of the findings.
• Interviews of key members and stakeholders, including interview guide design, notes from the interviews stripped of unique identifiers, and a summary report of the findings.
Making a Global Impact
Our Approximately 18 Canadians participated in the Global Infrastructure Conference hosted by the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) in Geneva this past September in a variety of capacities. Most noteworthy was the election of Canada’s Catherine Karakatsanis as FIDIC’s first ever woman President-Elect. She will assume the role of President at the 2023 conference in Singapore. Three A.D. Williams Scholarship winners (Julie DiCicco, Siobhan Robinson and Nicholas Kaminski) participated in the FIDIC Future Leaders program and acquitted themselves extremely well. ACEC’s John Gamble co-chaired the FIDIC Directors and Secretaries Council and moderated the conference’s closing panel on the future of the industry.
Collaborating with Stakeholder Partners to Advance ACEC Priorities
ACEC continues to focus on empowering our industry as an essential partner in solving Canada’s greatest challenges. Finding alignment with other stakeholders strengthens and reinforces our ability to shape federal public policy in Canada.
ACEC President and CEO John Gamble and Intervia President Caterina Milioto represented ACEC at the Transportation Association of Canada’s Annual Conference in October 2022. During the event, John Gamble participated in a panel focused on “Green Procurement,” where he was able to make the case for QBS as a great way to achieve Canada’s sustainability goals. He offered the perspective that climate change is a lifecycle challenge that requires a procurement method that promotes long-term resilience and rewards innovation, suggesting that QBS is the most effective procurement method to do just that.
In November, ACEC co-signed an open letter with the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CREA) urging faster delivery of major projects in Canada. CREA was the lead organizer of the letter which was supported by nearly 30 national industry associations in the infrastructure, manufacturing, natural resources, and energy sectors. The letter was well-aligned with ACEC priorities—it encouraged more efficient delivery of major projects to support Canada’s electricity transmission grid that cross provincial and territorial borders.
There is significant alignment between the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and ACEC on infrastructure issues, including the NIA and capacity building within the municipal sector (e.g., the InfraGuide). ACEC met with both the Executive Director for Policy and the Director of Government Relations of FCM in the fall of 2022. FCM will be pushing the federal government to support water and wastewater investments and welcomes ACEC’s support and expertise in this area. We agreed to continue our partnership as organizations committed to supporting capacity building for municipalities, improving procurement processes, and building stronger communities.
Over the past fiscal year, ACEC has been working to promote the idea of a national infrastructure corridor, calling it “Canada’s Infrastructure Network.” It’s a concept that has been around for over 50 years and has the transformative potential to create jobs, encourage investment, empower northern and Indigenous communities, and support environmental sustainability. ACEC has been reaching out to other Canadian stakeholders to explore opportunities to promote the Network, which could also align with the government’s Critical Mineral Strategy and growing interest in hydrogen as a cleaner energy source for the future.
Amplifying Your Voice Ahead of Budget 2023
As we do each year, ACEC participated in the government’s pre-budget consultations and submitted our official recommendations in early October 2022. Our submission positioned the consulting engineering industry as vital to achieving the government’s goals in the years ahead, particularly in building a sustainable economy. We had a meeting with the office of Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, to discuss how our recommendations would drive economic growth, strengthen our communities, and benefit all Canadians.
In November 2022, ACEC held its annual Parliamentary Reception just a few steps from Parliament Hill. Over 20 parliamentary offices were represented, including 12 Members of Parliament and 4 Senators in attendance. The reception gave our members an opportunity to meet with policymakers of all political stripes, giving a platform to discuss key issues facing our industry while highlighting our federal budget priorities.
As a result of our strong advocacy push, Budget 2023, released in March, contained many announcements that will create significant opportunities for consulting engineering companies in the years ahead. There were major investments in skilled trades and clean energy, which will certainly benefit our industry. There was also an enormous emphasis placed on attracting investment into Canada, including commitments to improve impact assessment and permitting processes for major projects. This allows ACEC to continue engaging the government on how best to ensure infrastructure meets the needs of local communities, while connecting our country’s vast natural resources to the global supply chain.
Advancing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
ACEC recognizes that equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) is crucial to building healthy and productive workplaces—promoting creativity, encouraging problem-solving, and leading to better outcomes. At the industry-level for consulting engineering, it is also key to attracting and retaining the next generation of consulting engineers, as well as supporting the long-term sustainability of our sector.
In 2022, ACEC’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee identified four themes to be studied through a national research project on promoting women and diversity in consulting engineering: education for employers, parental leave, flexibility, and pathways to leadership. This study resulted in a final Report with fulsome recommendations, including building an EDI framework for firms, providing relevant training and data, supporting women in the field, advocating for better parental leave, sharing best practices, and more.
The ACEC board has accepted all of the recommendations. The Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee can now begin the implementation of the recommendations over the coming year so that we can set a solid plan in motion to support our member firms as they recruit and retain engineering talent, improve performance, and advance EDI across our industry.
Promoting our Members and Boosting our Industry
This past fiscal year was also filled with opportunities to highlight our industry’s contributions, and celebrate our members as community-building experts and innovative problem solvers.
In the fall of 2022, we hosted ACEC’s National Leadership Conference where we heard from many private and public sector stakeholders and experts, including Benjamin Tal (Deputy Chief Economist of CIBC World Markets) and Rebecca Zofnass (Managing Partner at Environmental Financial Consulting Group). The topics of the presentations and panels covered a wide range of priorities for the consulting engineering sector—from the importance of an integrated environmental and economic vision for Canada, to how we can best achieve net-zero policy and navigate new, emerging risks.
Following the Conference, ACEC co-hosted the Canadian Consulting Engineering (CCE) Awards, an annual ceremony to celebrate our industry’s exciting accomplishments and incredible contributions to Canada. During the event, 20 Awards of Excellence were awarded for projects that strengthen communities, improve safety, and enhance quality of life for people in Canada and around the world. In the days that followed, our #20DaysofExcellence social media campaign shone a light on the award-winning projects from the CCE Awards for 20 straight weekdays, highlighting their positive impact on communities across the country. ACEC leveraged this year’s Awards to engage government officials by encouraging them to congratulate the winners of the event and publicize their achievements.
ACEC-Canada’s successful and longstanding partnership with CFES has being renewed to include greater profile and expanded engagement with student leaders. ACEC will also now receive exclusive recognition as “Legacy CFES Supporter”. The partnership provides for even more opportunities for student engagement to promote our industry as a fulfilling and rewarding career. This includes career fairs, presentation opportunities and high-visibility speaking opportunities. In January 2023, ACEC attended CFES’s Canadian Engineering Leadership Conference at the University of Calgary. Our staff ran a workshop to gather student insights and perspectives on gender diversity and inclusion, and they participated in a career fair to encourage young people to pursue careers in consulting engineering. As well, ACEC CEO and President John Gamble gave a keynote address at the closing banquet. In February, John Gamble and Martin Savard of ACEC served as judges at CFES’s 2023 Canadian Engineering Competition at the University of Waterloo.
A Strong New Strategic Plan
ACEC’s Board recently adopted a new Strategic Plan laying out our vision: a strong and resilient Canada designed and built by a thriving consulting engineering industry. This Plan solidified ACEC’s mission: promoting our members as community-building experts and driving policy solutions that benefit this generation and the next, in Canada and around the world. By championing our industry, strengthening firms, and supporting our members, our Strategic Plan outlines an ambitious path forward for ACEC to advance important change and help the consulting engineering industry flourish.