Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna made it clear during a recent address to engineers that the government will be using a tightly focused policy lens when it spends on infrastructure in future.
McKenna told members of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – Canada (ACEC) during its annual general meeting, held virtually on Oct. 27, that every dollar spent on infrastructure must target such goals as fighting climate change and boosting inclusivity.
“We need to make sure every dollar spent has multiple benefits,” she said. “It’s about jobs in the short term and economic growth in the long term. It’s about tackling climate change and a more resilient future. And it is also about inclusivity, and that is an area where we need your support.”
McKenna urged engineers to “think hard” as they designed projects: “How do we get those multiple benefits? How do we get women not only into consulting engineering but also into construction, and broaden the diversity? There are huge opportunities for jobs.”
The Ottawa MP outlined the three pillars of federal government infrastructure spending: the 12-year, $180-billion Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan (ICIP) is said to be directly intended to put sustainability at the forefront of project planning; the COVID-19 Resilience stream provides $3 billion in accelerated ICIP funding; and the new $10-billion Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) Growth Plan also contains a notable focus on green infrastructure.
The COVID resilience stream, McKenna admitted, would be slow off the mark in terms of providing immediate stimulus because the government is still working to secure revised ICIP agreements with some provinces and territories.
McKenna referred to a recent study indicating that every $10 billion spent on infrastructure creates 75,000 jobs.
“I need you to be part of this,” she told ACEC members. “I need everyone to be part of this. Obviously consulting engineers, you guys know how critical building good infrastructure is to our country, to our people, to our prosperity, to our long-term growth and well-being. And we need to make the case constantly to Canadians.”
Unless Canada tackles climate change, its infrastructure investments will be wasted, McKenna said.
Projects “won’t be able to withstand the massive impacts of climate change,” she remarked. “But if we do it right including building for changes in climate including to reduce emissions, we will be really prosperous in the future. At the end of the day many of us who care about future generations realize this is our obligation.”
The government is committed to good data and a thorough national infrastructure assessment, McKenna said.
“Let’s really be clear about what outcomes we want, what funding we need to get there.
“You should know I am rethinking our approach to infrastructure planning. How do we bring more diligence to it, how do we bring in other partners, how do we work with you folks, how do with work with others, to get good projects built.”
Asked by ACEC president and CEO John Gamble if the government would commit to funding infrastructure funding to support the resources sector, McKenna replied with a discussion of clean-tech opportunities for Alberta including CIB support for an irrigation project in the province.
“The natural resource sector is incredibly important and a lot of the innovations we are seeing and the reduction in emissions are coming from the oil and gas sector with clean tech companies. So I think it is across the board and I think there are unique opportunities. I speak province by province.”
Following McKenna’s half-hour address, the ACEC proceeded with other association business including naming Anthony Karakatsanis, president and CEO of the Morrison Hershfield Group, as chair of the ACEC board of directors for the 2020-2021 term. Karakatsanis replaces Lawrence Lukey in the annual rotation of ACEC board chairs.
The ACEC also announced that Sylvia Jungkind of WSP Canada Inc. is the recipient of the 2020 ACEC Chair’s Award. Jungkind has served on ACEC’s Business Practices Advisory Committee, formerly ACEC’s Contracts Committee, and represented the ACEC on the Canadian Construction Documents Committee for eight years.
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