Canadian Consulting Engineer

$1.5 Billion to Toronto’s Waterfront

December 1, 2000
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Ambitious plans to revitalize the Toronto waterfront received a kick-start in October after the federal, provincial and municipal governments each committed $500 million to the project. Just a few wee...

Ambitious plans to revitalize the Toronto waterfront received a kick-start in October after the federal, provincial and municipal governments each committed $500 million to the project. Just a few weeks before, Gordon Thompson of CIT, a member of the team that structured the waterfront proposals, spoke at the CanaData Construction Forecasting conference. He said trying to get the three governments on side was akin to “herding cats into a bag.” However, the cats seem to be all lined up now in this effort to lure the 2008 Olympics to the city.

The $1.5 billion initial investment will mean lots of work for consulting engineers as most of it will go to building infrastructure and cleaning up contaminated soils in the dilapidated industrial areas that currently block the city from its lakefront. However, this is only the beginning. The cost to realize all the components of the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization task force’s plan, commonly known as the Fung Report, are estimated to be $12 billion, of which $5 billion is for infrastructure.

According to Thompson, even if the city does not win the Olympic bid, it must go ahead with revamping the waterfront. “If we do not act,” he said, “there are threats to the ongoing prosperity of the city.”

The Toronto report recommended burying or removing the Gardiner Expressway that runs along the lakefront in Toronto. The eastern section is already being dismantled (URS Cole, Sherman are the consulting engineers).

Less contentious are most of the other proposals. These include plans for a streetcar and light rapid transit line to run the 46-kilometres length of the waterfront.

Park areas along the lake would be expanded into a continuous “green necklace” from Ashbridges Bay to Ontario Place, with large parks at each end acting as bookends.

At the eastern end around the Don River, explained Thompson, contaminated soils and flooding have stymied previous efforts at development, such as the ill-fated Ataratiri housing project of the late 1980s. The new plan would shift these soils to create a berm that would act as a flood barrier, thus answering both problems. The Port Lands in this area would become a centre for high tech and film industries located round a central canal.

The plan also proposes building 40,000 housing units and facilities such as a public square, waterside aquarium, museum, arts centre and cruise ship terminal.

Marshall Macklin Monaghan consulting engineers played a major role in the revitalization task force, with Bill Longden, executive vice president of the firm, acting as the Olympic facilities liaison. SNC-Lavalin verified the costs, and BA Consulting was involved in the transportation proposals.

If the plans seem ambitious, Thompson pointed out that one of the major advantages for Toronto is that 85% of the land is already publicly owned, so there is no need for lengthy expropriations. Aside from the $1.5 billion recent government infusion, the plan calls for most of the funding to come from development charges, toll roads, land leasing, and from revenue from easement and utility corridors.


Good times roll

Overall, “it’s a pretty good time to be in business,” concluded Alex Carrick in his presentation at the CanaData Construction Industry Forecasting Conference held in September in Toronto.

Nonetheless, the guru of Canadian construction activity warned that the Canadian economy will probably slow during 2001 due to the high cost of oil and the high U.S. dollar.

Predicting likely hot construction markets, Carrick suggested office buildings are in demand. Vacancy rates have declined to 6.6% in downtown areas, while in Ottawa a boom in high tech industries has pushed the vacancy rate down to 3.9%.

Hospitals and medical centre construction is booming, especially now that the federal government has agreed to increase health-care transfer payments to the provinces by $23 billion over the next five years. Carrick noted that almost every major hospital has a capital expansion under way (Centre Hospitalier de l’Universit de Montral, $900 million, and McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, $850 million, are just two long-term projects that are in the planning stages). Universities are also expanding, thanks to high enrolment, the elimination of Grade 13 in Ontario, private sponsorship and government funding.

In engineering, Carrick noted that Quebec is targeting $4 billion over the next 10 years for transportation projects, including a major expansion of the subway line in Montreal. Vancouver’s light rapid transit line expansion is under way, and Calgary is preparing plans for a $1.3 billion expansion of its line.

Environmental megaprojects under way or proposed include the Halifax harbour clean up for $300 million, the Sydney Tar Ponds site remediation at $62 million, and a $500 million water treatment plant in Victoria, B.C. to appease U.S. neighbours.

In the energy field, Carrick noted that massive natural gas pipeline projects are planned or under way in the Maritimes, Quebec and across the Georgia Strait. Cogeneration power plant proposals (“where the real action is”) include a $400 million conversion of Lakeview in Mississauga, Ontario.


Hatch, Acres acquire

Hatch of Mississauga, Ontario has bought the mining, metallurgy and industrial business of Kaiser Engineering, which has offices in the United States and Australia, and 600 employees. Kaiser originated in 1914 in Vancouver, B.C. as a road-paving contractor and was ranked as the number one contractor in the world by 1965.

Acres International of Oakville, Ontario has bought Nordic Engineering of Calgary, specialists in the oil sands, heavy oil recovery and gas processing sector. Nordic’s staff of 100 will be integrated with the mining and industrial group in Acres’ Calgary office.


Kevin Hydes lends advice

Canadian Consulting Engineer is pleased to welcome Kevin R. Hydes, P.Eng. to our panel of editorial advisors. Mr. Hydes is the president of Keen Engineering in Vancouver. The firm specializes in mechanical systems, fire protection, building automation, energy management and environmental building design.

Educated in England at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, Mr. Hydes worked with a major HVAC company there before moving to Canada in the early 1980s. He is chairman of the Cascadia Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, a director of Consulting Engineers of B.C. and an honorary member of the Architectural Institute of B.C.


Slave driver

“It starts with technology available to do work all the time. Then as there is more work to do, business speeds up, the market keeps expanding, and there is more of an emphasis on output … even in the service sector we’re seeing formalized first, second, and third shifts.” — John Challenger of Chicago in the article “Internet has spawned night shifts for white-collar types,” National Post, September 26.

Wet landing

The 1,263-acre man-made island that supports Japan’s Kansai International Airport is sinking into Osaka Bay. The airport is having to pump out rising groundwater and place a 35-metre deep ground wall around the terminal. When the airport opened in 1994 it was expected to settle to about 11 feet over 10 years, but now the ground looks as if it will sink three feet more than that. “The extreme case of the complete sinking of the airport is not a real possibility,” said a professor of civil engineering at Kyoto University, “but additional countermeasures to protect the facilities … may be required.”

Salary surveys in

A salary survey by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. has found that the median compensation for its members has risen to $73,000 in 2000 from $68,310 in 1998, a two-year increase of 6.9%.

The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Manitoba’s survey found that the median base salary of a 1970s graduate is $73,000, of an 1980s graduate $64,000 and of a 1990s graduate $46,000.


Border cities losing talent south

The article “Missing Persons, Generation X and the War for Talent,” (June-July, p. 22) was well researched and chronicles the serious problems that we all face in trying to recruit recent engineering graduates to consulting engineering. The problem is even more acute for those of us with offices in border cities such as Windsor, Ontario. Employers in metropolitan Detroit recruit our graduates and poach our staff with offers of higher wages, instant NAFTA-TN Visas, signing bonuses and other perks. Unless our federal government owns up to this problem and our clients are prepared to pay higher fees to support competitive remuneration for our staff, the quality of Canadian consulting engineering will likely suffer.

As the chair of Professional Engineers Ontario’s Global Task Force in 1998, I am very concerned about the difficulties we face as a profession. Our federal government has committed Canada to free international trade via GATS, NAFTA, APEC and other such treaties in the belief that this will open export doors for Canadian service industries. However, they (and we) have as yet failed to address the many difficulties this open-door policy has created for the regulated professions in Canada. For example, how do we keep our colleges, universities and our industry from becoming mere training schools for U.S. employers now that any Canadian with an engineering degree, an offer of employment from a U.S. employer and U.S. $56 can get an instant TN Visa to work in the U.S.?

Dr. N.K. Becker, P.Eng.

N.K. Becker Inc., Windsor, Ont.

Gen-X speaks

Guess what, I am 35, and while in many ways I found your article “Missing Persons” to be bang on, there are exceptions. I have been continuously employed directly in engineering for the past 13 years (since graduating).

I know what skills are marketable and how to develop them, but I also know what attitude makes me upwardly mobile.

I often think I should get involved in mentoring programs, career preparation programs, or similar. I used to run high-school and university co-op programs for a previous employer. Now, however, my time has become too valuable.

It almost baffles me, but I have become too expensive to do what I enjoy and what I am most positioned to do. It would be absurd for me to do volunteer work at my age, with my mortgage and tax load. I have even thought of writing a book because I see so many young graduates with only academic skills, but how am I supposed to find the time with a demanding job and two young children? I have given up teaching a fire alarm course at BCIT because it is not worth my time (they paid me $75 an hour) and I have done it for long enough to develop and prove the skill. I hope that mine is the most cynical generation, because I would like to think that my children face a future with some optimism.

Kevin Cheong, P.Eng.

Robert Freundlich & Associates, Vancouver

Missing persons look to IT

The article “Missing Persons” shows a problem we are facing right now. We have to hire young graduates but there are only a few available. Last year at the Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal only six students took the electro-technical specialization.

One reason for the shortage of young engineers to work as designers in consulting firms is the orientation to information technologies.

I read also the article on ground source heat pumps (by Gordon Shymko, P.Eng., p. 54). The author wrote a very good overview of the technology.

Laurier Nichols, ing.

Dessau-Soprin, Montreal

Pulp and paper solid sense

Ian Douglas’s article (June/July, “Going for Zero”) was an excellent synopsis of the environmental situation in the Canadian pulp and paper industry. One subject that would have been interesting for him to cover in more detail, however, is the situation regarding solid wastes.

Solids from the mills’ primary and secondary effluent treatment systems constitute a major portion of the industry’s solid wastes and the quantity of these solids has been steadily reduced over the years (with the exception of de-inking wastes). Significant investments have been made to reduce losses of chemicals and wood pulp fibres to the effluent system and for safe disposal of these solids to landfill and incineration. This has resulted in an improved quality of solid wastes. Lately, the value of these effluent solids for soil enhancement has been recognized and is being pursued by a number of progressive pulp and paper companies.

D. Ross Lewis, P.Eng., Principal

Stantec Consulting, Surrey, B.C.

Write to the Editor by e-mail: bledger@, or regular mail: CCE, 1450 Don Mills Rd., Toronto, Ontario, M3B 2X7. Contributions may be edited for length.

Steven Evans


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