Canadian Consulting Engineer

Commons Committee includes ACEC recommendations in report

For consulting engineers, what is noteworthy in the February 2005 Federal Budget is that Canada will be taking further steps to move to a green economy and sustainable communities. Infrastructure proj...

April 1, 2005  Canadian Consulting Engineer

For consulting engineers, what is noteworthy in the February 2005 Federal Budget is that Canada will be taking further steps to move to a green economy and sustainable communities. Infrastructure projects, for example, are increasingly linked to environmental sustainability, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The most positive element is that the specific funding for municipal infrastructure from the gas tax has now been confirmed. Other good news for municipalities is the $300 million that has been allocated for the Green Building Municipal Funds. Further good news in the Budget is the government’s commitment to renew current infrastructure programs, the amount of which will be announced in future budgets.

On the tax front, there is more good news. To ensure that Canada’s business taxes are internationally competitive, Budget 2005 proposes the elimination of the corporate surtax in 2008 and a two percentage-point reduction in the general corporate income tax rate to 19 per cent from 21 per cent, by 2010.

The bad news is that there is no provision in the Budget for supporting the National Highway System. Other bad news is that ACEC’s recommendation for the establishment of a National Roundtable on Sustainable Infrastructure has been ignored by the government. This Roundtable would have helped the government in developing a national infrastructure plan with the participation of the private sector, including consulting engineers. Although the government will be spending billions of dollars over the next years, there is still no coordinated mechanism to develop a comprehensive infrastructure strategy.


Further bad news is that there is nothing in the international cooperation section of the Budget in terms of infrastructure investments in developing countries. The only possible positive development is an undefined promise to “encourage incentives for Canadian firms to do business in Africa in a way that better considers each community’s social and economic development issues,” whatever that may mean.

On the topic of procurement, the government is focusing on realizing economies by getting better prices. The Budget documents make no real reference to value. On the positive side, construction and engineering services seem to have been left off the government’s list of commodities where they expect to make savings in the coming years. Nonetheless, there are no positive messages regarding the implementation of QBS (quality based selection) for engineering and architecture services. Further, the Budget outlines changes to property management that may affect consulting engineers.

The government expects to have savings of $925 million over five years as a result of improved property management initiatives, including reducing the current level of space utilization, using lower-cost accommodation outside municipal cores and hiring private sector experts in cases where savings can be achieved.

Although it is uncertain whether this will apply to buildings, the government plans to reduce its procurement costs through:

* consolidating purchasing government-wide so that it can leverage its buying power to get the best possible prices;

* using a single buyer to negotiate the best possible price;

* reducing administrative, compliance and reporting costs through more effective use of technology.

ACEC and its partners will, undoubtedly, need to continue to press the government on issues such as procurement and international development. ACEC will also remain vigilant about procurement changes.



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