The Canadian Construction Association is making what its president Mary Van Buren says is its boldest foray yet into a federal election campaign, starting off by targeting current MPs with messages on four key issues.
The CCA is inviting its members to learn more about the four issues — investor confidence, long-term infrastructure planning, boosting innovation and technology, and attracting a skilled and diverse workforce — then activate a link sending a letter to MPs, then network with colleagues, friends and family to do the same. The association also plans to get even more involved closer to the fall election.
“It is part of our delivery strategy to unite the industry on national issues that matter,” Van Buren explained about the plan, which was unveiled in June. “Part of that is increasing our visibility with our government, engaging with our members and meeting with the government.”
Closer to the election, once all candidates have been nominated, the CCA will repeat the messaging process with candidates being lobbied.
The CCA’s campaign, labelled #Construction4CDNs, also includes messages and backgrounders on its website construction4cdns.ca, and Van Buren said the CCA leadership is ready with further strategies that could include political advertising, letter campaigns and social media outreach. Platforms will be analyzed as they emerge and briefing documents will be created for members.
“Should there be something that we vehemently love or vehemently disagree with, we have a strategy on that,” Van Buren explained.
On investor confidence, the CCA is urging the federal government to remove any further regulatory delays to the Trans Mountain expansion project. On infrastructure, the CCA says the government must commit to a 25-year plan. On innovation, the CCA is asking the federal government to become a partner in innovation with the construction industry. And on the workforce, the CCA is calling on the federal government to increase funding for career and technical training programs. On the fourth issue pointedly address community benefits clauses the CCA finds troublesome.
The point is to make it transparent and make it fair for everyone to bid,
— Mary Van Buren
Canadian Construction Association
“Specific legislation or regulations have the potential to threaten the fair and competitive bidding process on federal government contracts and tenders,” the CCA policy statement says.
“The focus should be on working with industry to develop an inclusive workforce strategy rather than on creating legislation that may expose projects to political interference and costly delays.”
Van Buren explained the government initiatives undermine transparency.
“What we are asking is that if it is anything beyond the project itself — if it is for a bridge or a hospital — in some cases we have seen contracts that have an extra box that says, ‘what else will you do,’ ” she said.
“What we’re asking is that if a municipality wants something extra, a park or a community centre as part of the new bridge, that they include that in the proposal so that each contractor has the opportunity to bid on whatever that benefit is.”
The point, Van Buren said, is to “make it transparent and make it fair for everyone to bid on the same requirements, including community benefits.” She said the CCA is non-partisan but its advocacy in favour of the Trans Mountain pipeline argues the government must do better.
“It is crucial that the government remove any regulatory challenges to the pipeline’s construction,” the CCA argues. “Any further interruption may impede investment, employment, innovation and technology development.”
Commented Van Buren, “Energy is critical to Canada, it is certainly critical to Canada’s economic strategy, and we need to keep building Canada for the future. The company went through all the process as required, only to all of a sudden have it fall apart. That brings into question the overall process.”
While the federal government has committed to spending $180 billion on public infrastructure over the next 12 years, which the CCA said is “encouraging,” a broader commitment is called for.
“It is about building our nation,” said Van Buren. “We can’t do that in four-year cycles and have any real impact. It is about setting the priorities. If we have more need than we have capacity, it is important as a nation that we map out those priorities and do our best to advance them.”