The topic of infrastructure over the years has turned “into a shiny bobble that was dangled around election time,” says ACEC President and CEO John Gamble, but he’s hoping the federal party leaders this time around will commit to long-term, predictable infrastructure investment.
To help spread this message and educate both members, interested stakeholders and the public, the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada (ACEC) has launched an interactive website called www.VoteInfrastructure.ca.
"Infrastructure is an across the board win for all concerned. It makes good sense for taxpayers and all Canadians," Gamble explains.
"One of the things that's always been a challenge, not just for the consulting engineering sector, but for municipalities and other public agencies...is some years the infrastructure funding's there, sometimes it isn't. It's improved, but it's not hardwired."
Visitors of the website can send a form letter to all candidates in their riding asking them to make infrastructure investment a priority in the Oct. 19 election, the association states, and can also learn facts about infrastructure, the association's stakeholder partners and keep up to date with the official party positions on important issues relating to infrastructure.
"Conviction comes from engagement," Gamble states, adding the website is meant to "provide, in one convenient place, some very concise messaging and background on infrastructure and why it's important to Canadians."
ACEC will also be asking the party leaders to specifically outline how they would ensure long-term, predictable infrastructure investment.
"When we get the responses, we want to make that information available, not just to ACEC members, but to any Canadians that are interested in infrastructure investment," Gamble adds.
ACEC has outlined its stance on the website and is calling on the three levels of government to work towards a collective goal of restoring infrastructure investment to six per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Since 2006, infrastructure investment in Canada has averaged 3.4 per cent of GDP, up from 2.5 per cent from 2001-2006, the association states. However, despite recent government initaitives, investments are still significantly lower than six per cent of GDP in the 1950s and 1960s.
"We've taken the view that tying it to the GDP of the country, one, will give some predictability to it, and it also reflects the country's current ability to invest. We realistically recognize we're not going to get the six per cent overnight.
"There has to be some very serious adult discussion between the three levels of government on the various respective roles. We think it's important to plant that flag in the horizon and collectively try to move towards it," explains Gamble, adding there is a need for investments to be strategic, predictable and ongoing.
"What we need is long-term vision. It's very difficult for us to invest in both human and technical and physical resources when we have these very dramatic peaks and troughs in infrastructure funding."
Investments must also be based on a clear, efficient and transparent application process, ACEC notes, and asset management by communities is vital in order to prioritize real needs.
"Infrastructure should be viewed as an investment to be leveraged, not as an expense to be minimized," Gamble states.
In addition to the website, ACEC has also joined the Canadian Public Works Association in support of a recent call by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for a debate on infrastructure issues between all federal party leaders.
"This is very important. There's debates on external affairs, there's debates on the economy...but infrastructure is a core business of government. This is something government needs to re-embrace," he says.
"We always have the handwringing about our health care, but at the end of the day we know it's going to be there and it's a source of national pride. We should view infrastructure with the same commitment, the same urgency, and the same national pride."
ACEC's discussion is also taking place on social media via #VoteInfrastructure and @ACECCanada.