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Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada works on agreement provision

Patricia Williams

The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada (ACEC) is working closely with member organizations in Western Canada in an effort to remove engineering services from the procurement provisions of the interprovincial New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA).

In the association’s annual report, retiring chair Herb Kuehne of Alberta said that while the industry supports free trade, the accord between the governments of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan has had “unintended consequences” in terms of the engineering sector.

“The resulting but unintended consequences include higher construction costs, higher long-term maintenance and life-cycle costs and higher procurement costs,” Kuehne said.

“In addition, innovation is being stifled.”

In the report, prepared for the association’s annual general meeting, ACEC said the NWPTA requires government clients to accept submissions from all qualified firms within the trade agreement area for professional services exceeding $75,000.

“Clients must either spend a significant amount of resources evaluating the qualifications of all proponents or revert to selecting the lowest fee,” the association said.

“In either case, this makes use of qualifications-based selection more difficult. Consequences include higher construction, life-cycle and procurement costs.”To support its members, ACEC has facilitated information-sharing and developed tools for a grassroots campaign to help provincial associations educate governments on the consequences of the trade agreement.

“The issue is now back on the political radar in Western Canada,” ACEC president John Gamble said in the report.

The trade accord, which came into effect July 1, 2010 and is to be fully implemented by July of next year, is intended to create Canada’s largest, barrier-free interprovincial market. It builds on the trade, investment and labour mobility agreement between B.C. and Alberta.

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