News & Events

Construction Associations React to Ontario Infrastructure Plan

June 30, 2011

Ontario’s recently unveiled 10-year infrastructure plan is a framework that can help the province’s construction industry plan to meet future building needs, say major stakeholders. “It is very positive that the government developed a plan which shows a commitment to the construction sector” said Joe Accardi, chair of the Construction and Design Alliance of Ontario (CDAO).” “The commitment to meet with the construction sector quarterly to talk about different construction related issues is important. It is a commitment to use the industry as a technical resource.” The province’s 10-year plan begins with a $35-billion, three-year, financial commitment that flows from this year’s provincial budget. The plan focuses on economic growth, improved asset management, an expanded role for Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and identified preconditions for capital ministries to come forward and ask for new funding. “It is a highly credible policy framework on which to develop or select appropriate infrastructure projects. “It is forward thinking, taking into account an economy in transition that is becoming more global and service-oriented,” said Ian Cunningham, president of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations. Bob Chiarelli, Ontario’s infrastructure minister, said in releasing the plan that it is not about a long list of projects, but is about the “how” Ontario will meet its infrastructure needs and not the “what.” A figure of $60-billion over 10 years was suggested by many as the total infrastructure investment the plan would deliver. Cunningham believes that the lack of a figure to attach to the plan requires perspective. “When the seed was planted of 10 years, $60-billion, it was introduced during a different economic environment,” he said. “I think this framework underlines the commitment to the ability to build.” Accardi said a key thing about the plan is that never before has a government put together a program that “encourages municipalities to focus on a broader plan” that advocates for asset-management practices. The CDAO is interested in understanding the projected expanded role of IO, including concerns over projected bundling of projects. Bundling could make it difficult for small to medium contractors to participate, added Accardi. Clive Thurston, president of the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA), said the plan “as a foundation going forward” is a good start. He said the plan clearly shows that the province understands the value of investing in infrastructure and how this drives economic activity. However, the possibility of bundling of projects is also on OGCA’s radar. “We do not believe it is appropriate in every case and there are factors not being looked at, such as the small and medium companies, contractors and firms who do not have the capacity to respond, (who) may see that work disappear,” Thurston said. Ultimately, Ontario’s long-term building plan ensures that infrastructure does not become a “thing of the past” during the province’s economic recovery, said Rob Bradford, executive director of the Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA). A commitment to regular “state of infrastructure” projects and the setting of measurable state of good repair targets for roads and highways are strong measures, said Bradford. The plan targeted bringing 67 per cent of highways and 85 per cent of bridges to a “good condition” rating over its 10 years. The plan also calls for 500 kilometres of new highways to be built. “Road infrastructure came out as strongly as public transit in this document. We do not try to separate the two — they are transportation infrastructure. “But there is a worry that there might be a shift of emphasis to public transit and maybe roads go by the wayside,” Bradford said. “This indicated that they are equal priorities, which is reassuring.” The CDAO represents the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario, Consulting Engineers of Ontario, Mechanical Contractors Association of Ontario, Ontario Association of Architects, Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association, Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario, RESCON, OGCA and ORBA. VINCE VERSACE, staff writer Daily Commercial News, June 30, 2011

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