Canadian Consulting Engineer

ACEC goes to Parliament Hill with industry issues

Following is part of a presentation given November 7 to Members of Parliament and government officials in Ottawa.Consulting engineers contribute to the economic and social fabric of Canada.Canada is c...

December 1, 2001  By Tim Page, President

Following is part of a presentation given November 7 to Members of Parliament and government officials in Ottawa.

Consulting engineers contribute to the economic and social fabric of Canada.

Canada is consistently ranked among the best places in the world to live. Our enviable record is derived in part from the quality and breadth of the public infrastructure that helped to build this country and that today underpins Canada’s social and economic success.

Engineered systems, structures, products and natural resources are part of the everyday lives of all Canadians and contribute to our quality of life, the sustainability of our environment, and the competitiveness of our national economy.

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Member firms of the Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada generate $6.5 billion in annual revenue, employ 48,000 professional engineers, technical and administrative personnel, in Canada and in over 120 countries around the world.

More than 30% of the industry’s revenue is earned in the international arena. Canadian consulting engineers are ranked third in the world in revenues earned internationally.

Restore and build better infrastructure to retain quality of life

ACEC has long campaigned for greater public investments to redress the serious deterioration in Canada’s public infrastructure. We have focused our attention on municipal infrastructure and on the national highway system. We continue to believe that inadequate federal resources are being committed to address the quality of our air and water resources and the safety and competitiveness of our transportation systems, particularly the national highway system.

In spite of recognized technical deficiencies in over 38% of the national highway system, Canada has committed only $600 million over four years, or the equivalent of $5 per capita per year to remedy the problem. In comparison, the U.S. is investing US $110 per capita per year to upgrade its highway infrastructure over a six-year period.

We are calling on Ottawa to amend the Canadian Transportation Act to include a direct role for the federal government in the national highway system and for the development of national technical and safety standards.

We are calling for $3 billion in federal funding of the national highway system through a partial remittance of the $4.7 billion dollars collected annually by the federal government in excise tax from the sale of gasoline.

Since September 11, we would encourage the federal government to support initiatives that seek to ensure the protection and security of public utilities, buildings and government properties, dams, electrical and nuclear power plants, water treatment facilities, industrial plants, building ventilation systems, bridges, schools, hospitals and transit systems. We stand ready to assist the government in these efforts.

Expect higher industry fees after 10 year lull

Today’s engineering industry is rebounding after 10 years of sluggish performance. The industry’s viability is directly related to the health of the general economy and is particularly influenced by the vitality of the environmental, natural resources, buildings, energy, transportation, water and waste water and telecommunications sectors of the economy.

Renewed economic buoyancy in our marketplace is resulting in upward pressure on professional engineering service fees. Upward pressure on fees reflects:

current supply and demand conditions in the market;

the importance of retaining existing expertise and attracting new professional engineering talent to the business; and,

industry’s need to reinvest in innovation, technology, training and marketing in order to remain competitive in an increasingly global marketplace.

Consulting engineers who are valued most by private clients (i.e. those who find the highest value in our services and who pay us the best) are those who:

are involved in both strategic and tactical issues from the earliest conceptual stages of a project; and,

are retained for their professional services on either a sole-source or qualifications basis.

Private clients are also more satisfied with the quality and innovation of our professional services. Today less than eight per cent of industry revenues are earned from federal government clients.

The mandate of the Export Development Corporation (EDC) is to strengthen not weaken Canadian export competitiveness

EDC offers important finance and insurance services to the consulting engineering industry which help us to compete internationally.

EDC is on the brink of requiring the details of projects seeking EDC financing to be publicly disclosed 45 days before financial approval is considered in the context of its Environmental Review Framework. No other OECD country has a provision that is as potentially injurious to its export community.

ACEC believes that no confidential commercial information should be disclosed prior to or after an EDC decision or financial closure without prior approval of the Canadian exporter, the client and other funding agencies involved.

We strongly disagree in principle with prior disclosure and our concerns are increased by the lack of sufficient information from EDC on how this ill-advised recommendation would be administered. Uncertainty in the finality of financing decisions will discourage Canadian businesses from using EDC instruments. This is particularly damaging for small and medium sized Canadian businesses.

We ask the Board of Directors of EDC to re-examine this issue before reaching a final decision and we invite the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade to support our concerns.

Is the private sector still welcome at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)?

CIDA has played an important role for over 30 years in targeting Canadian tax dollars to much needed development aid around the world. It has done so in partnership with a number of key stakeholders including the Canadian private sector.

CIDA’s recent Aid Effectiveness consultation paper casts serious doubts on its intentions of including the Canadian private sector as key players in the future.

Through our industry’s long-standing involvement in the developing world, member firms have been able to help build indigenous capacity through the transfer of technical, project and financial management knowledge resulting from local participation in project work. We have helped to plan, design and build needed transportation and telecommunications infrastructure. We have helped to establish water and waste water systems to supply potable water to urban and rural communities and to manage the treatment of used water. More lives have been saved through the engineers’ provision of good sanitation and safe drinking water than have been saved by the invention of any single medicine.

We have helped to plan, design and build schools, hospitals, homes, office buildings and industrial plants and the power sources that supply those facilities. We have helped to create the basic infrastructure required to sustain life and to provide the basis for locally-led economic development. We have played an important and constructive role in these and other areas for 30 years as partners with CIDA and partners with host country stakeholders. We believe these contributions are, and must remain, central components in any poverty alleviation mandate.

CIDA’s consultation paper is virtually silent in these areas.

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