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ACEC advocates for infrastructure spending, revamps documents, issues P3 Guide and watches NWPTA

The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies - Canada (ACEC) held its 87th annual meeting last week on June 25. The meeting was held as part of ACEC's Annual Summit in Montebello, Quebec.


The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – Canada (ACEC) held its 87th annual meeting last week on June 25. The meeting was held as part of ACEC’s Annual Summit in Montebello, Quebec.

In their reports, John Gamble, president of the association, and the outgoing chair, Wilfrid Morin, emphasized the success that ACEC has had in advocating on behalf of consulting engineers with the federal government. Through events such as Parliament Hill Day held last October, ACEC believes it helped to ensure that the federal government extended the deadline for projects funded under the economic stimulus program and has committed to ongoing infrastructure investment.

Gamble said that it is thanks to the federal government’s stimulus fund investments that consulting engineers have weathered the economic downturn. Consulting engineering in Canada currently represents $21.4 billion in revenues.

On another topic, Gamble noted that over the past year the consolidation of consulting engineering firms has not abated. Since 2001, the number of the association’s member firms has dropped 21%. Yet at the same time, the number of employees the member firms represents has doubled over the same period.

Efforts to have client groups use qualifications-based selection for hiring consulting engineers continues to be a focus for ACEC, said Gamble. One sign of progress last year was that the Canadian Standards Association developed an online program for using qualifications-based selection and is marketing the tool, QBS-Pro, to client groups.

Other highlights from last year were the publishing of an ACEC special guide, “Understanding Public Private Partnerships in Canada.” The guide is the result of an ACEC task force that was set up to explore P3 projects and the implications for consulting engineers.

ACEC also revamped several of its professional service agreements last year, including Documents 31 and 32, agreements between the client and the engineer, and between the engineer and the sub-consultant, respectively. John Collings, P.Eng., chair of the ACEC Contracts Committee, was formally thanked during the meeting for his work and dedication on these projects.

As for challenges, Gamble talked about the issues facing consulting engineers in the western provinces with the New West Partnership Trade Agreement, or NWPTA. This agreement between British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan replaces the TILMA agreement and aims to remove barriers to the movement of people, goods and services in Canada. It came into effect in 2010 and will be fully implemented in 2013.

Gamble said the problem is that the NWPTA agreement does not exempt professional services from its rules on procurement.  As a result of NWPTA, more bids are being submitted for projects and the work is going to firms that bid the lowest price.

Last year ACEC also undertook a review and streamlining of its communications program. Gamble said an audit showed that not enough people were aware of what ACEC is doing, so they are now renewing their efforts to “solidify the membership.”