The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies — Canada (ACEC) has launched an election advocacy campaign that takes the infrastructure ask a step beyond merely urging the federal parties to pledge significant dollars to infrastructure.
The campaign labelled “Infrastructure the Right Way,” lays out principles for prioritizing infrastructure spending and reiterates the ACEC’s recent push to encourage creation of a national infrastructure corridor to coordinate national permitting and projects.
ACEC president and CEO John Gamble explained recently that the ACEC’s election advocacy efforts, outlined at InvestInfrastructure.ca, include outreach to the engineering constituency and beyond.
“Our goal here through our awareness campaign, our micro site, is to help anyone with an interest in these issues make informed decisions,” he said.
“At the ACEC we are transparent where we stand on various issues, we are non-partisan, we will not endorse specific parties or candidates, but we very much encourage informed and knowledgeable debate.”
The federal election is expected to be called imminently with Oct. 21 being targeted as election day.
The ACEC website lays out the “infrastructure the right way” theme, discusses issues and solutions, offers links to more in-depth policy discussions such as the ACEC’s 2019 pre-budget submission, presents a candidate-messaging mechanism and local election tool-kit, then gives analysis of the platforms of each of the main parties, a feature that is still in development.
It is an incentive for municipalities to put together good practices,
— John Gamble
Association of Consulting Engineering Companies — Canada
The first of the two key policy areas identified on the site is improving the delivery of infrastructure funding. The ACEC suggest that the federal government’s $180-billion commitment to infrastructure is behind schedule and requires better distribution and delivery to ensure Canadians receive the maximum possible benefits from the investments.
“I have to give credit to all the parties. None of them are against infrastructure, they all quite sincerely want good quality infrastructure that will support Canadian communities and Canadian business, but it is not just about how many dollars you throw at it,” said Gamble.
“It is important that we get the advantage out of every infrastructure dollar we possibly can so it is not just money thrown on the street but that spending is done in a manner that is going to allow municipalities, consulting firms, contractors and the whole delivery train to be as effective as possible delivering good quality infrastructure that will deliver life cycle benefits.”
The ACEC website argues that if the spending is done project by project, rather than as part of a broader program such as a municipal asset-management plan, the value of the spending is diminished.
“It is important that for municipalities all the infrastructure works together,” Gamble said. “You don’t want to be resurfacing roads then later ripping up brand-new asphalt to install sewer pipes.
“It is an incentive for municipalities to put together good practices. A lot of them have taken up the gauntlet and put together a sophisticated plan. If they are going to go through the time and expense of putting together an asset-management plan, it helps if they have some reasonable certainty that they will be able to follow through on these plans.”
The election website explains that a national infrastructure corridor is both a physical right-of-way through which major national pieces of infrastructure such as pipelines could be delivered and also a regulatory and permitting scheme that ensures predictable decisions can be made. The site says the corridor concept “proactively addresses social and environmental concerns, making the planning, development and implementation of both public and private infrastructure projects less costly and more time effective.”
It’s an idea that has been kicking around for 50 years, Gamble said, originally conceived by lawyer and historian Richard Rohmer and given recent currency after a paper about it was released by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. A Senate committee also endorsed the corridor concept.
“The national corridor creates rights of ways,” Gamble explained. “Right now, every major infrastructure project across provincial boundaries triggers federals approvals, which are done in a fragmented way. If we could come up with a national corridor where the high-level approvals are done, where we address water crossings and regional hydrogeology, where we address First Nations, it creates an area of certainty where the infrastructure owners can essentially be tenants of that right of way. The idea is to take a lot of the uncertainty out of investing in projects.”
Follow Don Wall on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.