August 19, 2013
Engineers want development strategy
The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada (ACEC) has called on Ottawa to build on existing initiatives to develop a national strategy for northern and remote infrastructure.
In its pre-budget submission, the association said there is “an acute need” to access Canada’s natural resources, minerals, metals and oil/gas in particular, and transport these resources to market.
“Such a strategy needs to offer a business case for the private sector to contribute to these investments, not only in the northern territories but also in the northern parts of many provinces,” the association said to the House of Commons standing committee on finance.
ACEC, which represents close to 500 independent consulting engineering companies across Canada, said there would be significant benefits to Canada’s economy if the government facilitates infrastructure development in the North.
ACEC president John Gamble said northern resource development presents enormous economic potential, though there are some unique challenges involved.
“The government has a number of programs to help develop the North,” he said. “But, it is critical that we also have a public policy that presents a good business case for private investment, notably in the resource sector.”
Gamble said one of the “real barriers” to such development is the transportation, power generation and transmission infrastructure that must be put in place.
The association also reaffirmed its support for the 10-year federal infrastructure plan announced in the 2013 budget. Noting that continuity is critical for effective delivery of infrastructure, the association said however that it is “urgent” that work begins now so that new investments can begin immediately in 2014-2015.
“Certainly, we are seeing at this particular time a definite slowdown in terms of public infrastructure work as people wait for the new program,” Gamble said.
“Already, we are starting to see some job loss (in the consulting engineering sector).”
He said the federal government needs to renegotiate the gas tax with the provinces and update framework agreements for the new funding program. A process also needs to be put in place to ensure that applications are processed quickly and infrastructure investments can begin immediately in the new fiscal year.
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