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City’s fiscal management a key concern for Toronto Construction Association

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by Vince Versace

Responsible fiscal management by Toronto’s future city council should not come at the expense of infrastructure planning and spending, says the Toronto Construction Association.
Ontario election
Ontario election

Responsible fiscal management by Toronto’s future city council should not come at the expense of infrastructure planning and spending, says the Toronto Construction Association.

“One of the issues we are following now and will take the opportunity to discuss with them after the election is responsible fiscal management,” says John Mollenhauer, president of the Toronto Construction Association (TCA).

“To be clear, though, responsible fiscal management is not just about a balanced budget or the urgency to reduce the deficit. It is more about spending priorities.”

TCA has conducted a survey of its 2,200 members to help understand what they consider to be their key municipal election issues. The 140-year old association represents 300,000 local construction practitioners and three overarching issues of concern have emerged: planned infrastructure spending, improved procurement protocols and tackling transportation and congestion.

Mayoral frontrunners George Smitherman and Rob Ford have campaigned on different infrastructure strategies which would impact construction activity in different ways.

Central to Smitherman’s plan is a focus on transit expansion as it concerns new infrastructure, given the worsening congestion and population growth in the Greater Toronto Area.

He would also institute a new system of 24/7 construction on major arteries, such as the Gardiner Expressway at Jamieson Ave., to speed up completion and minimize disruption.

Ford’s plan includes a $700-million investment in road improvements, to be funded with private sector cash generated through subway-related development along the Sheppard Line. This funding would then be used to eliminate the $250-million backlog of road repairs and complete the $50-million synchronization of all signalized intersections.

Mollenhauer noted that with the province working on its 10-year, $60-billion infrastructure plan the city’s spending priorities should have an infrastructure focus as well.

“The city needs to continue to realize there is a municipal infrastructure deficit. Infrastructure spending will stimulate employment,” said Mollenhauer.

“We are spending money on infrastructure because we have to catch up. We have spent too little for too long. It is about responsible spending and spending money where you think it will do the most good.”

Improving procurement processes at city hall is another issue TCA would like to continue to tackle with a newly elected city council.

“The approvals process is much too long in Toronto, procurement protocols desperately need updating to ensure a more even playing field for bidders,” says Mollenhauer.

“Protocols related to procurement continue to include onerous clauses. The process needs to be reviewed and updated objectively, it cannot simply be done by purchasing personnel, and it has to take into account conventions in the construction industry.”

The next city council also needs to make improved transit networks a capital spending priority to help alleviate congestion, said Mollenhauer. There also have to be more “efficient protocols” to help minimize disruption of construction in the city’s core.

“The G20 brought that to light; it essentially ground the construction industry to halt in that area,” he said. “You cannot just stop a construction project, the cost of grinding it down then cranking it back up are prohibitive.”

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