“Where’s an engineer when you need one?” somebody quipped at the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (ACEC/AFIC) Summit held last week in Lake Louise, Alberta. Jokes like this helped to alleviate some of the stress of being in the very region where a natural disaster was unfolding, one that showed that even the best engineered roads aren’t always a match for Mother Nature.
The floods in Canmore south of Lake Louise following torrential downpours on June 19 washed out the Trans-Canada highway so badly that many speakers and delegates were not able to reach the ACEC conference. And those who had made it in before the roads were inundated were held partially “trapped” at the beautiful Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Only one road out was open from Lake Louise, and that was west into British Columbia, which meant taking a 16-hour detour to get back to Calgary International airport (which was thankfully left unscathed).
Not that anyone needed to leave. ACEC President John Gamble and his team did a masterful job of keeping things going. When speakers couldn’t make it (one came all the way to Calgary from Toronto and had to turn back), ACEC beamed them in via Skype or found alternatives. One presenter, Penny Collenette of the University of Ottawa, spoke by audio from a darkened hotel in downtown Calgary that had no water and no power, and with sirens going by in the street outside.
Thanks to the ACEC staff’s ingenuity, dogged determination and long hours (recorded on a hilarious video), the sessions largely unfolded as they should.
The focus of sessions on the first day, Thursday, June 20, was the state of the Canadian industry and the challenges and business opportunities for consulting engineering. The opening speakers included Warren Everson, Senior Vice-President at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and Brock Carlton, CEO of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The second day, Friday, June 21, sessions began with an in-depth look at ethics (very topical) by lawyer Guy Giorno, a partner with Fasken Martineau and former chief of staff to the Prime Minister.
At the annual meeting held in the afternoon of June 21, Jason Mewis (of EngComp, Saskatoon) was appointed chair of ACEC for 2013-2014. He takes over from Murray Thompson (of URS Canada, Toronto). At age 39, Mewis is one of the youngest people to chair ACEC.
It was also announced that the new chair-elect is Anne Poschmann (of Golder, Toronto). She will become ACEC’s first female president when she takes up office in 2014.