Infrastructure investment and particularly a national infrastructure assessment were topics members brought forward during the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies — Canada (ACEC) recent Parliament Hill Day.
The day took place Oct. 19 and members had the opportunity to meet with members of parliament from all parties to discuss three key themes impacting the sector.
“We’ve got something for the future to guide public policy,” said John Gamble, president and CEO of the association.
“We have an ask that is talking about the immediate needs right now. We want to make sure we don’t lose ground on the infrastructure deficit. We cannot afford it. Infrastructure is only going to get more and more expensive.
“The third piece of it is what we believe to be a potential program enhancement as we move forward with both the national infrastructure assessment and subsequent investment programs.”
The main priorities of the national infrastructure assessment are assessing Canada’s infrastructure needs and establishing a long-term vision; improving co-ordination amo-ng infrastructure owners and funders; and determining the best ways to fund and finance infrastructure.
“We first of all want to stress to government members the urgency of moving forward on this commitment,” Gamble stated.
“Will it need improvement? Likely. I think the opposition parties want this to move forward and they want to be constructive, so this is something we think is a potential win for all concerned, but most of all the owners of infrastructure assets and the Canadian people who use these infrastructure assets.”
The assessment is important because it’s like a foundational strategic plan, he added.
“It will ensure that any ensuing public policy will be made in context of understanding the kind of infrastructure we need in the future, what our current baseline is and what does the roadmap to get there look like,” said Gamble.
The other issue they addressed was a bit more short term.
“The Investing in Canada Plan, which we have supported as an industry, it’s not a perfect plan but it’s a very good plan. Its intake of new applications has now closed,” Gamble pointed out.
“We still have an infrastructure deficit. We still have immediate needs. Whether it’s to meet climate resiliency or just needing the day-to-day wear and tear on existing infrastructure, we need the next program launched. That was really our message.
“We need either to recapitalize and the next round of investments from the Investing in Canada Plan or its successor program but there are immediate needs we need to continue to address.”
He added, “Having a national infrastructure assessment will help alleviate that in the future by giving us a clear line of sight of what our needs are.”
ACEC also brought forward a new idea to see if it will gain traction.
“Most infrastructure programs, most investment programs at all levels of government, they’re typically application-based on a project-by-project basis,” said Gamble.
“A community’s or even a region’s infrastructure assets are an ecosystem onto themselves. It’s not for the faint of heart when you are applying for one project and hoping there is money in the program to apply for support for your next project when these things all have to work together.”
A potential solution is that in addition to individual applications, ACEC would also like to see opportunities where municipalities can apply for funding assistance based upon the implementation of their asset management plan.
“In other words, allowing them to receive a commitment from the government for support for multiple projects over multiple years that help fulfill the asset management plan,” he said.
“We believe that this will give us clearer line of sight in terms of trying to manage resources, whether it’s human resources, technological resources or supply chain. It allows the owners to make informed decisions over multiple years. It allows our industry, the contractors, the architects and the entire supply chain…more certainty in our decision making to deliver projects more effectively.”
He said he hopes future investment programs like the Investing in Canada Plan will provide flexibility to municipalities and other owners of infrastructure assets to get pre-approval of multiple projects over multiple years.
“Essentially, we are incentivizing and rewarding and supporting the creation of sound asset management planning.”
The day culminated with the Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards.
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