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ORBA convention sketches a roadmap to industry innovation

Angela Gismondi
ORBA convention sketches a roadmap to industry innovation

This year’s Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) convention will centre on innovation, and while it will explore what is coming in the future, it will also focus on new technology that is available today.

The association is celebrating its 90th annual convention and AGM and the theme is Roadmap to Excellence. It will be held at the Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto Feb. 6 and 7.

"We want to focus on innovation and the changing industry, some of the new and exciting things that the industry will be looking at over the coming year and years," said Geoff Wilkinson, executive director of ORBA.

"One of the things we’re trying to do with this convention is move beyond some of the things that are coming in the future and actually hear some of the exciting things that are here today and how we can utilize them today."

This year marks a milestone convention, said Geoff Stephens, ORBA’s incoming president, who is also the president of Capital Paving Inc. He said it’s important to bring something new and different.

"We actually have a dual focus this year," he said.

"The first is looking to the future of Ontario’s infrastructure through innovation, using existing technology in different ways or with something completely new. We have secured speakers who are at the helm of infrastructure innovation and experts in their field."

The second day will focus on the more immediate future and projects planned in Ontario for 2017, he added.

"ORBA has been working very hard to secure a list of work that will be called in Ontario in 2017, worth approximately $5 billion," said Stephens. "This list will be the highlight of day two and made available to all attendees through the event mobile application. You have to be at the event for access to this list and it is really something to be excited about."

Monday, Feb. 6 is Big Picture Innovation Day. Former prime minister Jean Chretien will kickoff the morning with the keynote address. He will be speaking on the importance of investing in transportation infrastructure.

There will also be presentations on smart roads, autonomous vehicles, autonomous construction equipment, the evolution of drones and earth moving GPS. Some of the session topics on day one also include innovations in asphalt technologies, the Canadian Construction Association Indigenous Engagement Guide, best practices for municipal concrete infrastructure and how Ontario roadbuilders should prepare for extreme weather.

The day will also include keynote speaker Patrick Brown, Ontario PC Party leader. NDP Party Leader Andrea Horwath is also expected, but had not confirmed her attendance as of press time. Seven-hundred attendees are expected for the Contractor’s Round-up and reception, which will take place in the evening.

"It’s an excellent opportunity for networking, which is really important in today’s construction industry where our members are looking for consortiums, partnerships and working together on some of the larger projects that are coming up," said Wilkinson.

Tuesday, Feb. 7 is Transportation Infrastructure Day and opens with an awards breakfast where six awards and scholarships will be handed out.

Former City of Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion will start off the presentations, discussing some of the challenges she had working with different levels of government and getting them to understand the importance of transportation infrastructure.

Stephen Rhodes, Ontario’s deputy minister of transportation (MTO), will be discussing the importance of investing in municipal infrastructure, followed by Bruce McCuaig, president and CEO of Metrolinx, who will be providing the Metrolinx 2017 outlook. Chris Gauer of Infrastructure Ontario will discuss infrastructure in the province over the upcoming year and Neil Zohorsky from the MTO will discuss alternative delivery models.

Ontario’s Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca will be the keynote speaker during the luncheon and will present the paver of the year and new concrete awards. The afternoon will focus on community infrastructure projects in key municipalities and regions across the province. From there, the convention will switch gears to examine the federal outlook and doing business with the federal government.

Rounding out the day will be presentations from Public Works and Government Services Canada and the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority. The evening will feature a President’s Dinner with keynote speaker Bob Chiarelli, Ontario’s minister of infrastructure. The dinner includes the Hall of Fame Awards and Inductions Ceremony. This year’s inductees are Silvio Bot and Robert Taylor.

The event is a great planning opportunity for the entire transportation infrastructure industry to network and plan their capacity for the coming year, Wilkinson noted.

"It’s an excellent opportunity for both our contractors and suppliers to find out about all of the projects right across Ontario for the upcoming year, which is really helpful in terms of their planning — financial as well as labour," said Wilkinson. "The other benefit is for public owners so they can network amongst themselves and hear what is happening across Canada and so they can be aware of the different projects, especially some of the big projects that they may be competing for contractors and labourers for."

For more on the convention visit

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