The Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) convention will look different this year but the goal remains the same: to provide information for the roadbuilding industry for the year ahead, says ORBA chair Bryan Hocking.
“The virtual summit is called Forging the Roadway Ahead and in many ways it has to do with dealing with a full year now of COVID complications but also all the other things that come with the industry,” said Hocking.
“Nothing has changed. We’re looking forward to commitment from the provincial government, from the minister of transportation in regards to the capital programs going forward, how much work there is going to be. Our contractors more than ever need to know that in 2021, despite COVID, there will be opportunities for them to work.”
Virtual format has opportunities and challenges
The 2021 ORBA Virtual Summit differs from the traditional convention in a few ways. It will feature a new four-day format taking place Jan. 27 to 28 and Feb. 3 to 4.
“Our theme last year was Staying Ahead of the Curve, would you believe. This year has been a task at staying ahead of the curve more than ever,” said Hocking.
“We discussed doing the regular convention which would have been two-and-a-half days. I think everybody at this point is a little weary of sitting in front of their monitor. They do it all day and then they do it for meetings. The planning committee had a discussion and we decided let’s try and spread it out in some way, so our staff looked at it and thought ideally it could be broken up into four days.”
This is the first time in 94 years the convention will not be held in person. The virtual convention will include a mix of live and pre-recorded sessions.
“We had planned on doing some of that recording in a safe manner in our offices in Mississauga (Ont.)… but the lockdown changed all that,” said Hocking. “We have all been challenged by the virtual approach. We’re used to in-person conventions, shaking hands and talking to people and this is different. We are doing this with the hope that this will be the only time we do this, that next year we will be back to a traditional convention where there will be networking and people seeing each other and enjoying each other’s company.”
Summit features a variety of keynote speakers, politicians
The summit will feature a number of speakers, including opening remarks from Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Jan. 27. The keynote speaker is Jim Harris, futurist and management consultant, who will present Time of Tremendous Transformation 2.0. The day will also include a municipal session with concurrent sessions on Ontario municipal reports.
Thursday, Jan. 28 is the governance session with the ORBA annual general meeting and awards. The day will also include the Ontario Asphalt Pavement Council AGM and awards.
On Wednesday, Feb. 3, the transportation and infrastructure session will feature a conversation with Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney with moderator Steve Paikin, host of The Agenda with Steve Paikin on TVO. The day also includes MTO division updates, a Metrolinx update with president and CEO Phil Verster and an Infrastructure Ontario update with president and CEO Michael Lindsay. The day will conclude with the Ontario 2021 Construction and Maintenance Labour Market Update, presented by Bob Collins, senior economist with BuildForce Canada.
The agenda on Feb. 4 includes a session entitled Ontario Road Builders — A Story of True Grit and Dedication, discussing how Ontario’s roadbuilders have kept building through the pandemic.
The summit is geared towards contractors, producers and industry suppliers, councillors, public works engineers, MTO staff, consultants, engineers, technologists, inspectors and contract administrators, professionals in the ICI and residential sector and academia. Hocking said attendees will learn what ORBA and the industry is planning over the next year.
“One advantage is that we might have more people participating and people a distance from Toronto that have not participated in a convention before would be part of this summit,” said Hocking. “That was our hope and that’s what we planned from the beginning is that this would not hurt our attendance but could in fact increase the opportunity for attendance.”
Sessions will be available to convention registrants on the platform for 30 days.
Registration for the summit opened last week. For more information visit https://orba.org/summit/.
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