Canadian Consulting Engineer


August 1, 1999
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Along with several industry and business organizations, ACEC is urging its members -- and anyone whose interests are affected -- to engage in discussions with all levels of government on the issue of ...

Along with several industry and business organizations, ACEC is urging its members — and anyone whose interests are affected — to engage in discussions with all levels of government on the issue of infrastructure rehabilitation and renewal. At right is the text of ACEC’s arguments and recommended talking points on the urgent need to address the current infrastructure deficit and establish a permanent Canadian infrastructure program. For more information, contact the ACEC National Office at 1-800-565-0569, ext. 208 or email:

Support a long term National Infrastructure Strategy to:

— strengthen economic growth, international competitiveness, job creation, and productivity;

— promote public health and safety;

— enhance the environment.

Economic growth

In 1996, the Auditor General of Canada reported that the economic benefits to Canada deriving from the federal government’s $2 billion contribution to the Canada Works Infrastructure Program (CWIP) had as positive an impact on the competitiveness of the Canadian economy as a $2 billion reduction in the national debt. The same report also stated that the CWIP contributed to an improved quality of life.

Infrastructure is a capital asset whose value depreciates if it is not maintained. Normal life expectancy is 20 years for roads and 60 years for municipal works. Our current deficit in infrastructure is estimated at $60 billion — $44 billion in municipal infrastructure and $16 billion in highways — and it is increasing at an exponential pace.

Transport Canada estimates that investments in highways result in increased national economic output of more than $3 for every dollar invested and that a one per cent decrease in transport costs can generate $200 million in GDP savings.

Physical infrastructure is the core connector of economic development activities that sustain growth and competitiveness.

For every dollar invested in engineering in Canada, 95 cents is added back into Canada’s economy and a further 26 cents is returned to all levels of government through income and sales taxes, permits, etc.

Leads to international competitiveness

Canadian highways are in direct competition with U.S. routes for billions of dollars a year in tourist and commercial vehicular traffic. The U.S. government recently passed legislation to invest US $218 billion over the next six years to improve state and urban transportation corridors.

Canada is competing globally for business investment dollars. Modern and competitive municipal infrastructure, schools and hospitals help to distinguish one community from the next as attractive places to live, work, invest in and raise a family.

Canadian success in the provision of infrastructure-related services in international markets is directly related to the experience and innovation first developed domestically.

Leads to job creation

Prime Minister Chretien described the CWIP as “one of the proudest achievements of the Liberal Government.” The Program supported 17,000 projects and helped to create 130,000 jobs. Over 75 per cent of CWIP project funding was committed to water and sewer systems, roads and bridges and municipal buildings, engineering and equipment.

Leads to productivity and quality of life

According to a 1997 Report on the National Highway System from the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety, reduction in congestion and improved travel conditions on the national highway system would save motorists up to 97 million hours in travel time, 236 million litres of fuel and property damages resulting from over 17,000 collisions per year.

Only 45% of provincial highways in the Greater Toronto area have enough capacity to meet current demand. According to a study commissioned by Ontario Premier Mike Harris, this number is expected to decline to 20% by 2021 if new infrastructure investment is deferred.

The environment

Tourism is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing industries. In 1998, visitors poured $47 billion across Canada into our tourism industry, which in Ontario alone accounts for nearly 400,000 direct and indirect jobs. Clean air and clean water are cornerstones of Canada’s attractiveness as a tourist destination.

The federal government’s Kyoto Convention commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can be supported by reducing traffic congestion through improved highways and transportation systems at key bottleneck locations.

Health and safety

The National Highway Policy update estimates a $5.8 billion highway safety benefit from reduced fatalities and injuries. The Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety estimates that highway related causes alone kill more than 350 people and injure more than 25,000 every year.

Inadequate water treatment facilities and aging water mains and sewer systems contribute to contaminated drinking water which increases Canadian health care costs. For instance, in Quebec only 80 per cent of the population has access to treated drinking water and two-thirds of the water treatment facilities in Quebec contain only very basic chlorination systems.


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