How Will the Federal Election Affect Engineering Firms?
The re-election of the Conservative government in this week’s federal election has important implication for consulting engineers in Canada. As a majority government, the Tories will have greater leeway to implement their platform. However, we should also consider the perspective of the NDP on many of these issues in its new position as the official opposition. The good news is that commitment to long-term infrastructure investment is one of the few policy priorities shared by both the Tories and the NDP.
The Conservative Party has promised to confirm permanent funding for municipal infrastructure. More significantly, the Tories have also committed to working with provinces, territories and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to develop a long-term plan for public infrastructure.
Additional commitments include free trade agreements with India and the European Union, provisions to promote research and training, hiring credits for small business and a one-for-one rule to reduce government regulation.
ACEC will challenge the Conservative government to match or exceed their commitments on infrastructure. This will be extremely important since the healthcare accord with the provinces will expire in 2014 at the same time as most federal infrastructure programs and we may be competing with other influential stakeholders for the government’s attention. We will also work to ensure that new free-trade agreements do not impair the use of Qualification-Based Selection (QBS) for public infrastructure procurement.
To view the Conservative platform, click here [no longer available]. The Conservative platform is largely based on the Budget presented in March 2011. The ACEC review of this Budget can be found here.
To view the NDP platform, click here.
The Conservative Party platform promises to work with provinces, territories and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to develop a long-term plan for public infrastructure that extends beyond the expiry of the Building Canada Plan. The platform also promises to introduce legislation to confirm permanent funding for municipal infrastructure through the Gas Tax Fund.
Specific infrastructure commitments include the completion of the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative, the development of an Ontario-Quebec Continental Gateway and Trade Corridor Strategy, and the implementation of the Atlantic Gateway and Trade Corridor Strategy.
The NDP are supportive of increased infrastructure spending with specific platform commitments to continue existing federal commitments like those under the Building Canada Fund, to maintain the Gateways and Border Crossings Fund, to enact a National Public Transit Strategy and to immediately allocate an additional cent of the existing gas tax to public transit funding for municipalities.
More significantly, the NDP platform promises a made-in-Canada procurement policy for investments in public transit and other key infrastructure. ACEC will continue to encourage the adoption of QBS as part of any new federal infrastructure procurement strategy.
The Conservative platform promises to complete negotiations on a Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement by 2012 and a Canada-India Free Trade Agreement by 2013. It does not address the role of regulated professions or infrastructure procurement within these agreements which fall under the domain of provincial legislation.
Research and Training
The Conservative platform contains several provisions to encourage research and train qualified personnel that could potentially make the consulting engineering industry more competitive:
- establishing 30 Industrial Research Chairs at college and universities;
- providing loans for recent immigrants to help pay for skills training and accreditation;
- establishing 10 additional Canada Excellence Research Chairs; and
- taking action on the findings of the Research and Development Review Panel established to review federal business research and development initiatives.
Platform commitments to make businesses more competitive include:
- a one-year EI break for small businesses;
- extending the 50% straight-line accelerated Capital Cost allowance rate for manufacturing and processing machinery, by an additional two years;
- a one-for-one rule to reduce regulation – every time the government proposes a new regulation it must eliminate an existing one;
- permanent support for BizPaL – an online service for one-stop information about all permits and licenses required by each level of government; and
- a tax harmonization agreement with the Government of Quebec.
Because our key issues transcend party platforms, ACEC is well-placed to continue to build strong relationships with the both the government and the opposition over the next four years. We are optimistic that the government may be more inclined to consider a longer-term approach in the development of new laws and regulations given that another election is unlikely until 2015.