Ontario’s Finance Minister Charles Sousa says while Ontario has been a leader in infrastructure and an example for Canada and beyond, he is concerned about the future of mid-size construction companies.
"We’ve got some of the best expertise in construction and financing, in P3s (public-private partnerships) and AFPs (alternative financing and procurement). We’re exporting some of this knowledge in engineering and the work you’re doing to the rest of the world but I’m really concerned about our mid-size construction area," Sousa told the crowd at the recent Navacord Construction Conference in Toronto, hosted by Petrela, Winter & Associates Insurance Brokers and Jones DesLauriers Insurance Management.
He added when it comes to pension funds and companies, he’d like to see more local investment and in different types of projects.
"They all want to play in the big space. They all want to go after the high speed rails and the major projects, those are important. I also want to make certain that we are attending to lots of projects," he explained. "I want the world to know that we’re open for business, I want the investments to come our way."
Sousa said Ontario has taken an important step in diversifying the economy beyond many sectors, not relying solely on resources.
"A lot of what you’re constructing is part of the new age economy," said Sousa.
The minister said he will be releasing a fall economic statement, an update to the budget presented in March, that will contain measures to support business operations.
"I need you guys to do well because, after all, the majority jobs that have been created in Ontario have been all private sector," said Sousa. "It is critical for us to do what’s necessary to make you competitive because in many respects you are competing against bids that are coming from other jurisdictions."
The sale of Canadian companies to global companies is also a concern, the minister said, citing the recent acquisition of Canadian company Aecon Group by China Communications Construction Company International as an example.
"That worries me because I have to make sure we have a lot of local talent," said Sousa.
"We still have some pretty large companies here. It’s part of business. Mergers and acquisitions happen all the time. We’ve got so much in the pipeline, our biggest worry now is scaling these companies. I don’t want them to be seduced by the U.S. market and find themselves going where they can access capital…I would like to see our guys grow to the point where they start buying some of those companies."
There is a section in the budget that includes support for mid-size companies, he added.
"I’m getting funds, I’m getting talent, I’m getting partners to work with these mid-size companies that are desperately trying to grow and in fact are in such demand that they are being sought after by other companies," said Sousa. "The scaling of some of these mid-size companies is important."