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ACEC expresses concerns with New West Partnership Trade Agreement

John Gamble, executive director of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada (ACEC), has written an open letter to the premiers of all of Canada's provinces and territories following their meeting in Charlottetown last week.


John Gamble, executive director of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada (ACEC), has written an open letter to the premiers of all of Canada’s provinces and territories following their meeting in Charlottetown last week.

The premiers discussed the possibility of removing inter-provincial trade barriers, but ACEC’s letter says that the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA) that is already in place between B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan has created problems for the engineering sector.

Gamble says in the letter that while ACEC supports enhancing internal trade within Canada in principle, the NWPTA agreement has “unintentionally discouraged the use of recognized best practices for procurement of engineering services.” In short, it has led to public clients hiring engineers based on who offers to do the work for the lowest fee.

He points out that under NWPTA professional engineering services “are being treated as a commodity and not as a value-added professional service.” Because governments are now required to invite submissions from ALL firms for any project exceeding $75,000, they are burdened by the complex work involved in assessing many engineering companies’ submissions. As a result they tend to adopt the more straightforward method of using the firms’ proposed price as the deciding factor.

He says that the result of using the firm who does the work for the lowest price could have consequences for the project and for public safety.

He asks the provinces and territorial governments to support the consulting engineering sector by ensuring that any future trade agreements allow for engineering services to be procured through methods such as those recommended in the InfraGuide, which was developed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and others.

The InfraGuide (National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure) provides for engineering firms to be hired based first on their experience and qualifications, rather than on price.

To view ACEC’s letter dated August 28, 2014, click here.