Mary Van Buren says the Canadian Construction Association she will be leaving next April is leaner, more modern and more effective than the entity she joined as its president six years ago.
Van Buren told the CCA board in August she would be moving on, giving the board over half a year to do succession planning and find a new leader, a task she expects will be completed early in the new year. The departure was announced by the association Nov. 16.
During her stewardship the CCA’s board was reduced from 90 members to its current 20, all of whom are elected; the number of key committees was whittled down to five; and the CCA’s advocacy was streamlined to focus on three key policy areas.
The overhaul of the model earned the CCA a Governance Award from the Governance Professionals of Canada in 2023.
“It’s been incredible and I’m really proud of delivering on my mandate which was to modernize the association, raise the industry’s profile and influence and deliver more member value,” said Van Buren. “The industry has been very welcoming and, you know, they care so much about the communities across Canada.”
Van Buren, who holds an MBA in international business from McGill, joined the CCA after a stint as vice-president of marketing and IT at the Canadian Real Estate Association. At the time she identified marketing and a digital transformation as priorities among others.
Explaining her planned departure, the Ottawa resident said the CCA is stronger than when she joined and there is “fantastic” momentum as the CCA has enhanced its leadership role among its 62 partner associations. Meanwhile the profile of the national construction industry has been raised, she feels.
“I’m a transformational leader,” Van Buren said. “And I’m so proud that we have now a really effective and nimble governance structure in place. We have a really engaged membership. Our Hill Day…was one of our biggest so far. We had close to 100 members who participated in the meetings with parliamentarians.”
The CCA has also introduced a new set of CCDC documents and its new digital service will soon be unveiled.
“I’m really proud of how strong the association is,” said Van Buren. “I wanted to make sure that there’s a smooth transition and we still have lots of work ahead of us.”
She noted the construction industry represents 7.5 per cent of Canada’s GDP and employs 1.6 million people, but it does not get the credit it deserves for not only its economic contribution but quality of life contribution.
The five councils of the CCA are general contractors, trade contractors, manufacturers, suppliers and services, and local construction associations. Through these, explained Van Buren, the CCA has emerged as a strong industry spokesperson on important topics such climate change, the workforce, immigration, national infrastructure, trade infrastructure, technology, pandemic-related topics such as vaccinations, and diversity and inclusion.
“We don’t assume that the staff at CCA have all the knowledge and just sit down and write papers or a policy document,” she said. “We go out to the experts and we get their input, their advice, and then we put it together. And that allows us to leverage the resources that we have and benefit from the collective wisdom of the industry, and there’s a lot of wisdom out there.”
Van Buren said she hopes her role as a high-profile woman running a national association serves to inspire other women.
“I am really fortunate to be president of such a large trade association that’s important to Canada’s economic strength,” she said, acknowledging assistance from strong mentors throughout her career. “And so I take that role very seriously. I hope that I’ve given other women a sightline to the careers that they can take on themselves.
“If women see other women in leadership roles, they feel more encouraged to follow a similar path or take on new responsibilities and challenges. So I hope that I’ve inspired some women.”
The CCA statement included a comment from CCA chair Brendan Nobes, who said Van Buren’s legacy of leadership will be long lasting. Van Buren said she aims to stay involved in the construction sector after leaving her CCA job.
“I’m really open to new opportunities,” she said. “I definitely want to take a month to do some travel and would love to stay engaged with the construction industry.”
Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.