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ACEC sets its sights on private sector

At the annual meeting of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada (ACEC) on June 21, the association's incoming chair, Jason Mewis, said their priorities for next year would include reaching out to organizations that represent...


Dorothy Williams (far left) and Leon Botham (far right) present the Allen D. Williams Scholarship Award to co-winners Simon Davidson of Roche (second from left) and Selena Wilson of McElhanney (second from right) at the ACEC Summit in Lake Louise, Alberta on June 21.
Dorothy Williams (far left) and Leon Botham (far right) present the Allen D. Williams Scholarship Award to co-winners Simon Davidson of Roche (second from left) and Selena Wilson of McElhanney (second from right) at the ACEC Summit in Lake Louise, Alberta on June 21.

At the annual meeting of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada (ACEC) on June 21, the association’s incoming chair, Jason Mewis, said their priorities for next year would include reaching out to organizations that represent engineering firms’ clients in the private sector.

The association has set a dedicated budget to expand this private sector outreach. It wants especially to reach out to client groups in the commercial, industrial, energy and resource sectors and has been in discussions with associations such as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Also at the annual meeting, ACEC president, John Gamble, P.Eng. gave his report, outlining achievements of the previous year.

Top of the list was the successful call for the federal government to support a long term-infrastructure funding plan. ACEC had given a formal pre-budget submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance on this issue, and was pleased when Finance Minister James Flaherty announced Economic Action Plan 2013, “which includes funding for the largest and longest federal infrastructure plan in Canadian history.”

Gamble said ACEC was also proud of having successfully persuaded the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to drop a plan that would have cost some of its member firms millions of dollars. The CNSC had wanted over $14 million in financial guarantees from companies that used nuclear devices such as densometers in order to ensure that they would be safely disposed of. However, an independent study found that the actual financial risk was more like $16,000 rather than $14 million and the CNSC decided not to proceed for now.

ACEC has also been working to “fix” the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA). British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan have signed on to this agreement so far. While ACEC supports inter-provincial trade, it feels that that the agreement as written “puts pressure on public clients to treat professional services as a commodity” (e.g. it puts too much emphasis on the price of engineering fees when selecting firms).

ACEC continues to promote the use of qualifications-based selection to counteract fee-based selection of engineering firms, and reported some successes, such as with Defence Construction Canada.

Gamble commended the work of ACEC vice-chair John Collings of British Columbia who spearheaded ACEC’s contracts committee which has managed to update the entire suite of standard agreements for consulting firms. The committee also negotiated changes to two new CCDC contracts, CCDC 14 – Design Build and CCDC 15 – Construction Management to ensure that they were fair to designers.

The meeting was held in Lake Louise, Alberta, close to the recent floods in the area. Despite many delegates being unable to reach Lake Louise due to the floods in the region washing out the Trans-Canada Highway and other roads, the meeting had a quorum.

That evening several awards were given out at the chairman’s dinner, including the 2014 Allen D. Williams Scholarship for a young professional. It is awarded in memory of the late Allen Williams, a former chair of ACEC (2004-2005). It provides funds for the winners to attend the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) conference, which is being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2014.

The co-winners of the award this year were Selena Wilson, a transportation engineer with McElhanney Consulting Services in Vancouver, and Simon Davidson, a project manager with Roche in Ottawa-Gatineau.

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Dorothy Williams (far left) and Leon Botham (far right) present the Allen D. Williams Scholarship Award to co-winners Simon Davidson of Roche (second from left) and Selena Wilson of McElhanney (second from right) at the ACEC Summit in Lake Louise, Alberta on June 21.