Planned investments in new infrastructure programs and maintenance of the Building Canada Fund until 2014 number among the highlights of the federal government’s 2012 budget from the perspective of Canada’s consulting engineering industry.
“We are pleased that the government is staying true to its commitment to the Building Canada Fund,” said John Gamble, president of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada. (ACEC). “We are also pleased that there are some new investments. We think such investments are prudent.”
In an analysis released Thursday evening, the association noted that the seven-year, $33 billion Building Canada Fund will continue as planned. It is estimated that approximately $5 billion remains for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 fiscal years.
“At a time of fiscal restraint, that is good news.”
ACEC currently is working with Infrastructure Canada to develop a new, long-term program for infrastructure, which likely will be released in 2014 when the Building Canada Fund expires.
The association also applauded the government’s maintenance of the legislated Gas Tax Fund which allocates $2 billion annually to municipal infrastructure as well as a commitment to modernize Canada’s public infrastructure with several new programs.
These include $150 million over two years for a new Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund to support repairs and improvements to existing community facilities.
ACEC said the proposed allocation of $330.8 million over two years to build and renovate water infrastructure on reserves and to support development of a long-term strategy to improve water quality in First Nations communities is good news for consulting engineering firms active in that sector.
“That is a fairly sizable new program.”
The association also endorsed a commitment to red tape reduction as well as moves to streamline the environmental assessment review process for major natural resources development projects, which it said will help expedite projects.
“Certainly, in principle, we like anything that streamlines regulations,” Gamble said. “But the devil is in the details when you try to harmonize environmental regulations. At the end of the day, regulations should appropriately protect the environment, but in an effective and consistent manner.”
Overall, Gamble said, the budget is a “prudent’ one, given current economic realities and the necessity for the government to remain in “strong financial shape.” The government remains on track to balance the budget by 2015-2016 “or possibly sooner.”
The association represents some 500 independent consulting engineering firms across the country as well as 12 provincial and territorial organizations. Consulting engineering in Canada is a $21.8 billion a year industry that employs close to 100,000 Canadians.