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2016 CCA chair ref lects on term filled with rapid change

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by Lindsey Cole

Gilbert Brulotte characterizes his term as 2016 Canadian Construction Association (CCA) chair as fast-paced with changes coming from all sides of the spectrum.
Gilbert Brulotte
Gilbert Brulotte

The outgoing chair described changing global political landscapes, new carbon initiatives, technologies and taxes in Canada as well as emerging workplace safety challenges as items he encountered during his tour across the country.

"Probably the thing that stands out most of all is the quick change in the business climate — whether its political arenas, we can talk about Trump, we can talk about carbon tax," he said. "The complexity of the industry becomes a lot clearer when you travel the country. It's not your own problem, it's a collective problem."

In his 2016 chair's message that was featured in the association's National Voice annual review, Brulotte said increased productivity, workplace safety and international competitiveness "all remain critical for the industry and there is a need to adapt technology to master the future.

"The need to adapt and stay relevant was my term's focus from day one."

He said the industry still faces an uphill battle when it comes to innovation and advancing new technologies.

"What we can do is changing probably faster than how the governance can react," he explained. "We talk about innovation, we talk about safety innovation and all of those things, and there's still a reluctance, certainly in the public sector, to let us be innovative."

During Brulotte's time as chair, several pipeline projects were approved by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, including Enbridge's Line 3 replacement and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project, which the CCA advocated for through a letter to the prime minister on behalf of its members.

"If you look at the pipeline approvals, we're assured that there's an exit for what's going to be produced in the west. Having said that, some of our (government) policies may still keep Canada at a competitive disadvantage," Brulotte said. "Are they going to invest to grow the economy? If we don't grow the economy then we're in a more static mode. There's lots of good news, but I guess I'm cautiously optimistic." The potential legalization of marijuana also emerged as an area of "huge concern," during Brulotte's discussions with industry stakeholders.

He stated moral and ethical considerations for employees are top of mind for employers, but the harsh reality is that there are legal considerations that need to be taken into account as well. "That's only going to get more challenging," he added. "I am not hearing the debate on whether they should or shouldn't do it (legalize marijuana). I am hearing let's make sure we can protect the public and the employees when it's done."

The CCA's industry summit in November, which was coined Adapt or Die, was also a highlight, Brulotte said, as it reiterated his key message as chair: if investment is made in the right individuals "we can be rest assured that their generation will succeed.

"The summit to me was refreshing. We did focus on how we evolve," he said, adding there were panel discussions with those under 40 years of age who shared their views on industry practices.

"We've got some great leaders coming and they are really looking for many of the same things that I did 30 years ago. They want opportunities to be able to interact with their peers, they want to know what's changing and be able to access information on what's coming down the pipe. It's still the same needs as there was, it's how we deliver that needs to adapt. It's almost a blueprint of the past, it's just the solutions to achieve the results have changed."

Brulotte described his term as CCA chair as "tremendous" and said the discussions he had with members, government and stakeholders reinforced his view of how strong the construction industry is in Canada.

"There's a whole bunch of people that can still sit down and pragmatically debate serious issues," he said. "That was a rewarding experience for me in that sense."

He also had a few words of wisdom for incoming 2017 CCA chair Chris McNally: "Keep your eyes and ears open and enjoy the ride."

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