In its written submission for pre-budget consultations in advance of the federal budget, the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) has made five recommendations to the government: support innovation, strengthen investor confidence, attract a skilled and diverse workforce, fund the Student Work-Integrated Leaning Program (SWILP) and commit to infrastructure spending.
CCA is asking the government to partner with the industry to provide the necessary framework and investment to enhance industry-wide collaboration for innovation in the industry. The submission recommends “dedicating specific program funding and incentives that will encourage businesses of all sizes, particularly small-and medium-sized enterprises, to access and embrace emerging and sustainable technologies.”
“Sustainability, climate change, there are new processes, there are new materials and technology and the risk of innovating still is primarily borne by the industry and given that normally it’s the low bid winner, it makes it difficult for our members to innovate,” explained CCA president Mary Van Buren. “We are looking for the government to partner on innovation and help de-risk innovation so that the industry is stronger and so that Canadians benefit from innovation as well.”
CCA is also recommending that the government work with the industry to develop an inclusive workforce strategy, rather than “creating legislation that may expose projects to political interference and costly delays.” The association is also asking that the federal government fund CCA’s SWILP application to place students from across the country in construction-related work terms in order to expose them to the career opportunities that are available.
We really would like consistent, depoliticized spending on infrastructure,
— Mary Van Buren
Canadian Construction Association
“There is a shortfall in workers and the industry has been working very hard to attract underrepresented groups,” said Van Buren. “We have a few asks of the government. One is to help us with a national campaign to reposition the industry, another is to help us hire students particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to try out the industry because we think once they try it they will see the full potential of a career in construction.”
The theme of strengthening investor confidence is one that has been a priority for CCA for the last few years. The association is recommending that the federal government offer certain exemptions to the heavy construction sector to help the industry remain competitive including establishing rebates and tax credits for companies who adopt green technologies; applying carbon tax at the pump prior to the provincial, excise and GST taxes; and excluding anti-idling devices from GST.
Van Buren said although the government has committed to invest $180 billion in public infrastructure over the next 12 years through the Investing in Canada Plan, the CCA is urging the government to commit to a 25-year plan for infrastructure spending.
“What we have heard from our members is that living in this boom and bust of infrastructure has a lot of downfalls for the Canadian economy,” Van Buren noted. “In a boom it means material costs a lot, the cost of labour goes up, there is a shortage of labour. When the bust happens, it makes it more difficult for apprentices, for example, to continue with their training because they don’t have work anymore. We really would like consistent, depoliticized spending on infrastructure.”
The CCA has created a website with resources and tools for the industry, www.construction4cdns.ca.
“We created a platform which shows the key messages in our budget submission and also is a member engagement tool whereby they can send a letter to their MP and also to candidates that lay out the messages,” said Van Buren.
“It’s really important that the industry unite, particularly in a federal election year, and that members get engaged with sending letters to MPs and candidates and make our voices heard.”
Follow Angela Gismondi on Twitter @DCN_Angela.