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Creating a better business climate 

(ACEC President and CEO John Gamble testifying before the Standing Committee on Finance September 21, 2017)

ACEC is your voice on Parliament Hill.

Throughout 2017, ACEC has continued to speak out on several national issues to create a stronger business climate for its members. We have promoted timelier infrastructure investment, responded to major announcements in the natural resource sector, and opposed punitive corporate tax changes by the federal government.

Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve done for you and your firm:


ACEC-Canada recommendations adopted by the Federal Finance Committee

ACEC-Canada made several recommendations to strengthen the consulting engineering sector that have been adopted by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance and submitted to the Finance Minister for his consideration. The Finance Committee’s recommendations included simplifying the application process for federal infrastructure programs, leveraging the Infrastructure Bank and developing infrastructure in the North. 

In its pre-budget submission to the Finance Committee, ACEC-Canada applauded the federal government’s commitment to infrastructure investment and reiterated its belief that public infrastructure is a core business of government that enhances the economic, social and environmental quality of life of Canadians. ACEC also stressed that there is still much work to be done for the government to effectively invest in infrastructure to create prosperity and to ensure the best value to Canadians. ACEC-Canada President and CEO John Gamble had the opportunity to further reinforce these recommendations when he testified in person to the Standing Committee on Finance in September.

ACEC-Canada’s pre-budget submission to the Finance Committee for 2018, included:

  • Prioritize infrastructure investments that enable economic prosperity, productivity and competitiveness.
  • Adopt Senate Recommendations to improve transparency in Federal Infrastructure Programs.
  • Implement a National Corridor to accommodate multiple infrastructure assets.
  • Use procurement best practices (QBS) for quality, innovation and long-term life-cycle savings.
  • Harmonize federal and provincial approvals to reduce red tape and provide clarity.

ACEC-Canada anticipates the next budget will be tabled in late winter/early spring of 2018. Stay tuned to our Source newsletter for a full debrief of Budget 2018 and its impact on the consulting engineering sector.


Infrastructure: Show us the $$$

(ACEC President and CEO John Gamble meeting with the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities)

ACEC-Canada continues to tell elected officials that Canada’s economy depends not only on long-term, predictable infrastructure investment, but also on getting infrastructure underway as quickly as possible. Despite the welcomed commitments to infrastructure investment by the federal government, consulting engineering firms in many parts of the country are not yet seeing increased activity. Both the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) and the Senate Committee on National Finance agree that there is a need to accelerate infrastructure investments and streamline the application process. The PBO outlined that of the $13.6 billion for fiscal years 2016-2018 announced in Budget 2016, departments have only identified $4.6 billion worth of projects. While departments have committed to spending all the allocated funds within the time frame provided, the data indicates that there remains a significant gap.

Even prior to PBO and Senate reports, ACEC-Canada President and CEO John Gamble met one-on-one with Members of Parliament on the House of Commons Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities Committee to share the industry’s concerns and to offer its advice and assistance in making the federal infrastructure program more effective. MPs have been very receptive to recommendations made by ACEC-Canada during these meetings and in its written pre-budget submission to the Minister of Finance, which can be viewed here.

In May, Mr. Gamble also met with the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, to raise these concerns directly and discuss the development and implementation of the government’s infrastructure plan as laid out in its last two Federal Budgets. The Minister’s office agreed to consult with ACEC-Canada and other stakeholders to ensure the effective and timely roll out of Phase 2 of the Government’s Infrastructure Plan, which the March budget confirmed would require additional rounds of negotiations with the provinces.

Although we are pleased with the federal government’s commitment to infrastructure investments of $186 billion over the next twelve years, we look forward to working with the Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities Committee and Infrastructure Canada on the implementation of the infrastructure program. While the consulting engineering sector would benefit from a more effective and efficient program, the real beneficiaries of infrastructure investments are Canadians, the Canadian economy and the environment.


Fighting for fair tax treatment of ACEC members

(Esteemed conference delegates and ACEC staff meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the ACEC national leadership conference, October 2017)

With a coalition of over 80 business associations, ACEC-Canada helped force the government to reconsider changes to how Canadian-controlled private corporations (CCPCs) are taxed. These changes, as originally proposed by the Minister of Finance in July, could have adversely impacted many family and employee-owned consulting engineering companies. They included restricting income splitting using private corporations, removing the tax deferral advantage of passive investments, and disallowing a private corporation to convert regular income into capital gains. Having clearly heard the concerns of the business community, the federal government made concessions to their original proposal; it now proposes to allow private corporations to convert regular income into capital gains and it will allow passive investments of up to $50,000 per year. They will also reinstate the promised reduction of the small business tax rate to 9% by 2019. These concessions are encouraging in that they suggest that the government is willing to continue dialogue with the business community.

ACEC-Canada mobilized as soon as it learned of this possible new tax. In addition to supporting the business coalition led by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, ACEC-Canada President and CEO John Gamble wrote to Minister Morneau explaining the impacts to our industry. Mr. Gamble also raised members’ concerns directly while testifying before the House of Commons Finance Committee in September. ACEC-Canada also issued two alerts to its membership with a "call to action" inviting them to write their MPs.

Earlier in the year, ACEC-Canada and its stakeholder partners successfully killed another federal proposal to tax employer-paid health and dental benefits was under. If enacted, would have added thousands of dollars to the tax bill for many Canadians and jeopardized plans for many employers, making it impossible for them to continue offering coverage. The federal government has now abandoned this proposal.

ACEC-Canada and its coalition partners do support tax reform and have offered to work collaboratively with the federal government to achieve fairness in the tax system. We will continue to leverage our relationships with the Finance Minister and his staff to ensure our members are represented in this important discussion.


Standing up for Canada’s resource sector

Although it is critical to Canada’s prosperity, the resource sector has become politically contentious for some Canadians. ACEC-Canada’s message to Canadians and Members of Parliament is that consulting engineers can help the resource sector be economically viable as well as socially and environmentally responsible. This was the theme of a panel discussion at the ACEC-Canada national leadership conference, during which CEOs from major private and public-sector organizations discussed the importance and future of Canada’s resource sector and how we need to work together to balance economic realities with social and environmental responsibility.

Mr. Gamble delivered a strong message to support and work collaboratively with Canada’s resource sector to members of the House of Commons Committee on Natural Resources. Committee members showed significant interest in the ACEC-Canada 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 addresses the unique challenges of doing business in the North.

(Senator David Tkachuk, Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce participating as a panelist during the ACEC national leadership conference, October 2017.)

The committee members were also extremely interested in ACEC-Canada’s support for a national infrastructure and transportation corridor. In collaboration with the office of Senator David Tkachuk, Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, ACEC-Canada hosted a panel discussion on a national infrastructure right-of-way across Canada’s north and mid-north at the national leadership conference in October. Moderated by John Gamble, Senator Tkachuk was joined by Chief Corinna Leween, Vice-Chair of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, John Van Nostrand, an architect and urban planner, and Andrei Sulzenko of the University of Calgary, who published the original report on this nation building concept. Senator Tkachuk and Mr. Gamble collaborated on further socializing the utility and transportation corridor idea by co-authoring an op-ed that was published in late August.

ACEC-Canada will continue to support its members who work in the natural resources sector through continued collaboration with the Senator, the Resource Committee and other stakeholders in the sector.


The future of NAFTA

Mr. Gamble is representing the business interests of the consulting engineering sector during discussions on trade issues, labour mobility and professional recognition with the US as part of the Infrastructure/Government Procurement Consultation Group chaired by Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator Steve Verheul. The renegotiation of NAFTA could have direct consequences to our industry and have significant implications for many of our sector’s clients, especially in manufacturing and natural resources. ACEC-Canada has ensured that the business interests of our industry as well as the broader stakeholder community are represented at the negotiation table to ensure a viable market place for all.

In addition to preserving our current opportunities under NAFTA, ACEC-Canada believes we should also explore ways to improve business for our industry. To this end, an opportunity brought forth by ACEC-Canada is possible alignment with the US Brooks Act to harmonize procurement between our 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.

ACEC-Canada has also participated in many 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.

As Global Affairs Canada continues to negotiate with our NAFTA partners, ACEC-Canada will remain active in representing the interests of our industry and our stakeholder community.


Protecting members from corporate wrongdoing

Criminal conduct must be subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties, and increasing detection. ACEC-Canada, along with Transparency International - Canada, is supporting a federal government proposal for a Canadian Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) regime as an additional tool for prosecutors to address corporate crime. ACEC-Canada’s submission to the federal government can be seen here.

DPAs are designed to address allegations of corporate wrongdoing more effectively than conventional prosecutions without needlessly jeopardizing the livelihood of employees that have no connection or complicity with any allegations. A DPA is a voluntary agreement negotiated between an accused and the responsible prosecution authority. Under a DPA, the criminal prosecution is suspended for a set period of time. During that time, the accused must comply with the terms of the agreement.

Measures such as DPAs not only improve compliance and corporate culture, DPAs can be used to mitigate unintended consequences for blameless employees, customers, pensioners, suppliers and investors whereas in some cases, a criminal conviction could lead to job losses and broader economic consequences.


Ensuring legislation reflects our members’ interests

ACEC-Canada has been representing the interests of engineering firms as four separate Private Members Bills were before the House of Commons and the Senate. We engaged with the Members of Parliament and Senators sponsoring the bills to seek clarification on their potential benefits and to avoid unintended consequences for consulting engineering firms. As of December, the various bills are in Committee and we will continue to monitor their activity.


Looking Ahead – What to expect in 2018

As we look forward to the year ahead, ACEC-Canada is gearing up for another busy year. The team is already working on exciting projects that will be launched in 2018 to further support our strategic priorities. Stay tuned for our Source newsletter for details on what to expect from your national association in the New Year!