A record of achievement
National Highways Commission
In 1953, the Prairie Roadbuilders Association at its annual convention in Saskatoon resolved to call upon the federal government to establish a National Highways Commission to co-ordinate the planning, financing and construction of national highways in Canada in support of economic growth.
The arguments cited were as sound then as they are today. They were part of national lobby efforts which helped persuade in the late 1950s the Diefenbaker government to advance the construction of the Trans-Canada Highway, officially opened in 1962.
The Road & Information Program Canada
The WCR&HCA in 1983 initiated the formation of The Road & Information Program Canada (TRIP/Canada). TRIP/Canada produced successive reports on the condition of Canada's municipal infrastructure and highways which were circulated to all three levels of government.
TRIP/Canada helped persuade the Transportation Association of Canada to complete and release successive reports addressing the concept of, and funding for, a National Highway System.
National Infrastructure Policy
Mindful of its national focus, in 1996/97 the WCR&HCA adopted a National Infrastructure Policy (NIP) which targeted investment in three public policy area imperatives:
- Municipal Infrastructure deficit;
- National Highway System; and
- Strategic Infrastructure Investments enabling new economic activity.
TThe NIP approach was subsequently adopted by national and provincial associations, including the Canadian Construction Association. It's also worth noting Prime Minister Harper's 2007 budget had two of the three elements. It lacked commitment to a National Highway System.
In 1998/99 the WCR&HCA supported a policy approach which fleshed out Canada's Premiers' Guidelines to a New Infrastructure Program, approved at their 1996/97 annual conferences. The brief was used in national lobbying efforts to press the federal government to adopt a national transportation & infrastructure policy.
Transportation Awareness Partnership
By 2004, there was general agreement that to change public policy required the support of an informed public. As a result, the WCR&HCA led formation of the Transportation Awareness Partnership stakeholder group. Its objective was to profile the importance of transportation to the standard of life that Canadians had come to enjoy.
The campaign ended when there was insufficient interest from a broad-enough national coalition to raise the necessary funds to pursue such a campaign. However, this initiative formed the basis upon which the WCR&HCA pursued its next national policy initiative in 2005.
Western Canada Transportation System
In March 2005, the Western Transportation Minister's Report was released. For the first time, a government report ignored provincial boundaries and considered developing a transportation system for Western Canada in a regional, multi-modal, just-in-time competitive global context. In December 2005, the WTM Report formed the basis upon which the premiers again called upon the federal government to develop a national transportation vision.
In October 2005, based on the WTM Report, the WCR&HCA facilitated a Western Canada group of associations to advance the notion and concept of a Western Canada Transportation System.
Its mission statement was straightforward: To champion an integrated, internationally competitive, efficient, sustainable and secure multi-modal Western Canada Transportation System (WCTS), to achieve a healthy economy, environment and quality of life for Canadians.
Promoting its notion of a system laid out strategically to enhance east-west/north-south trade while seizing emerging trade with the Asia-Pacific Rim countries, the WCTS Group met with all four Western Canadian transportation ministers. This led to WCTS group meetings with their respective deputy ministers and subsequent unanimous agreement to identify regulatory legislative harmonization and investment impediments to the free flow of trade.
Unfortunately, the economy went into recession in late 2008 and changed government focus. The link between infrastructure and economic growth was not lost on the WCR&HCA and it continued to champion the message regionally and nationally.
Recent activities – 2010-2020
As a result of the advocacy of the WCR&HCA for recognition of infrastructure investment’s key role in economic growth, the Canadian Construction Association adopted the proposition as its primary infrastructure messaging in 2010.
Commissioned by the WCR&HCA and the CCA, the Canada West Foundation produced At the Intersections: The case for sustained and strategic investment in public infrastructure.
The report makes a factual, powerful, evidence-based case for a national long-term infrastructure investment strategy, to support economic growth enabling the funding of Canada's quality-of-life social programs. A first of its kind report in Canada, it made five recommendations:
- Sustained and strategic investment in Canada's public infrastructure
- Priority should be given to public infrastructure that enhances economic performance
- Governments should encourage innovative approaches to the design of public infrastructure
- Governments should invest in just new infrastructure but must renew existing infrastructure.
- Recent infrastructure investments should be reviewed, with lessons applied to future investments.
The report received support at its official release from organizations such as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Engineers Canada.
- WCR&HCA 2013 Recommendations to the Canadian Construction Association
The most pressing concern globally and in Canada is economic growth. Therefore, public advocacy is required to promote sustained and strategic investment in infrastructure, prioritizing those projects holding the greatest return on investment to the GDP.
Accordingly, the WCR&HCA advanced three priorities for the CCA's attention for 2013:
- Promote the linkages between sustained and strategic investment in public infrastructure and Canada's economic growth, which enables Canada's globally envied social programs;
- Address Canada's infrastructure deficit in a balanced and shared trilateral government effort; and
- Develop a national coordinated effort targeting meetings with premiers and the Big City Mayor's Caucus in support of the above.
The CCA adopted the recommendations at its March 2013 meetings in La Malbaie, Quebec.
- Federal Budget 2013
The 2013 federal budget's New Building Canada Plan reflected many of the WCR&HCA’s long-held positions. Its $70-billion, 10-year infrastructure investment program was the largest and longest in our country's history. It:
- Included over $47 billion in new funding in support of local and economic growth infrastructure projects and $32.2 billion to build roads, public transit, recreational facilities and other community infrastructure;
- Indexed the Gas Tax Fund at 2 per cent beginning in 2014-15, which will add $9 billion to the program over its term;
- Supported through a $14-billion allocation, investment in major economic projects of national, regional and local significance; and
- Renewed with $1.25 billion, support for strategic use of public-private partnerships.
2014 – WCR&HCA priorities:
- Continue to advocate linkages between sustained and strategic infrastructure investment and the nation’s economic health and social well-being.
- Support the development of a report by the Canada West Foundation which addresses strategic infrastructure investment approaches to grow municipal economies within larger urban centers such as those represented by the Big Cities Mayors’ caucus.
- Establish ongoing relationship with the provincial municipal associations and Western Big City Mayors’ Caucus to explore aspects of sustained and predictable infrastructure investment strategies.
- Advocate the principles underpinning the New West Partnership Trade Agreement which support inter-provincial cooperation on economic development.
- Encourage the Canadian Construction Association to develop an Indigenous Peoples Engagement Best Practices Guide. Its purpose would be to establish benchmark best practices which in a transparent manner, assist Canada’s Indigenous peoples’ meaningful entry into mainstream construction industry commerce.
2015 – WCR&HCA priorities:
- Advocate linkages between sustained and strategic investment in infrastructure and Canada's economic and social well-being, and support ongoing CCA work in the development of recommendations which seek to harmonize infrastructure investment strategies of the federal, provincial and municipal governments in support of that goal;
- Support implementation of the recommendations made in the Canada West Foundation report entitled 'Building on Advantage: Improving Canada's trade infrastructure' which addresses strategic, trade-infrastructure investment strategies to grow Canada's trade capacity and, by extension, the national economy;
- The WCR&HCA was the driver behind the CCA funding three key reports which underpin the ability of our industry to champion sustained, strategic investment in infrastructure.
- The Canada West Foundation At the Intersection 2013 and Building on Advantage 2014 reports make the case that sustained, strategic investment in trade-enabling infrastructure holds high-value returns to the GDP and to sustained economic growth.
- The Mowat Report - From the Ground Up released November 2015 suggests that the three orders of government should streamline and coordinate trade-related infrastructure investment strategies and offers approaches for consideration.
- The reports can be viewed under 'Briefs and Reports'
- The reports have been used to champion sustained infrastructure investment and to advance the priority of trade as an enabler of economic growth.
- Enhance ongoing relationship with the provincial municipal government associations and Western Big City Mayors' Caucus in support of sustained and predictable infrastructure investment strategies;
- Advocate the principles underpinning the New West Partnership which support inter-provincial cooperation on economic development;
- Support strategies which assist attracting, training and retaining a skilled workforce to meet the growing demands of the construction industry;
- Advancing the above priority received some attention at the national level, but has largely remained within each individual member association’s areas of activity.
- Support the development of the Canadian Construction Association Indigenous Peoples Engagement Best Practices Guide
- The WCR&HCA advocated for the establishment of a task force to research and publish for industry distribution and use of a CCA Indigenous Peoples Engagement Best Practices Guide. The matter was pursued at the CCA Business and Market Development Committee chaired by Joe Wrobel from the BCRB&HCA. The Committee appointed Chris Lorenc, WCR&HCA President, to chair a review and then a task force to lead the develop of the guide.
2016 – WCR&HCA priorities:
1. Western & Northern Canada - Trade Transportation Prosperity
The Western & Northern Canada Trade Transportation Prosperity (WNCTTP) initiative is proposed to advocate for integrated, sustained and strategic investment in new and/or existing multi-modal trade-enabling infrastructure assets (road, rail, air, marine), trans-mountain and trans-Canadian pipeline to export Canadian oil and gas, to expand Western & Northern Canada's global trade profile, growth, wealth generation and jobs.
Projects and strategies should focus on investments, whether hard (assets) or soft (policy), which affect Western and Northern Canada's trade profile including:
- improving Western & Northern Canada's economic productivity, and therefore competitiveness -- generating new business opportunities and increased employment;
- identifying and supporting strategic investment in key multi-modal trade-enabling infrastructure assets to enhance the overall efficiency of the transportation network. Those would include strategic road and rail links across Western Canada and Northern Canada connecting the full region to new and enhanced global trade opportunities, south to the United States our largest trading partner, key border crossings and to inland and marine ports;
- trans-mountain and trans-Canada pipeline projects in support of oil and gas export opportunities the absence of which land-locks our export capacity denying economic benefit including investment and jobs to Western Canada and Canada's economy;
- emerging network of inland port developments;
- elimination of inter-provincial trade barriers and harmonization of regulations;
- attracting direct foreign investment and increase exports to leverage new trade agreements; and
- leveraging public/private sector investment in new/existing business opportunities and jobs.
The newly elected federal government led by PM Justin Trudeau has placed a high priority on significantly enhanced infrastructure investment to stimulate and support economic growth in Canada. Recent news suggests the government is seriously looking at accelerating the flow and size of the infrastructure program.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement is an example of both an emerging opportunity and threat to our domestic economic well-being if we ignore critical productivity investments in our trade-enabling capacities.
The lack of trans-mountain and trans-Canada energy transport infrastructure is preventing Western Canada from maximizing the potential benefits in global energy markets. At present the 'land-lock cost' to the Canadian economy is estimated to be $50 million every day. The Hon. Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources from Manitoba, will be a key minister.
Western Canada and Canada must respond to changing energy markets or face a major risk to national prosperity. And it must respond with trans-mountain and trans-Canada energy transportation infrastructure.
Accordingly, we need to advocate for investments and investment strategies which enable a more productive and competitive trade profile for Western and Northern Canada, and by extension Canada.
Not unlike any advocacy activity, this will be a multi-year project funded from the WCR&HCA reserves and stakeholder contributions.
 The above Information sourced from "$50 Million A Day," a 2013 report of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
2. Western Canada Rural Municipal Associations & Big City Mayors’ Caucus
Enhance the relationship with the provincial municipal government associations and the Western Big City Mayors' Caucus in support of the WNCTTP and for sustained, predictable municipal infrastructure investment strategies.
3. Priorities with the CCA
Given the new government’s interest in increasing investment in infrastructure renewal, focus national advocacy efforts on two main goals:
- the rapid deployment of these funds to meet the 2016 construction season; and
- greater simplicity and transparency in the application process to ensure that no new red tape is introduced to unnecessarily stymie project-approval decisions.
ii) Canadian Infrastructure Report Card
The Canadian Infrastructure Report Card will be released on January 18, 2016 in Ottawa. It will draw attention to the fact that infrastructure renewal efforts have only partially addressed the growing need for reinvestment in rehabilitation.
Moreover, it will show that municipalities continue to suffer from underfunding for maintenance and rehabilitation as higher orders of government, through existing funding programs, prefer to see municipal funds dedicated to new, rather than existing assets. As such, maintenance for existing assets continues to be an issue requiring significant attention.
CCA member associations can use the report card’s findings to advocate publicly for municipal infrastructure renewal.
iii) Silica Management and Best Practices Guide
As urged by the BCRB&HCA and ARHCA, participate in the development of a mobile app currently under development by BC Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA). The app would contain silica management best practices information in a portable and user-friendly format for industry workers when operating in or around conditions where silica exposure is likely.
iv) Standard Specifications and Contracts
Advocate and support standardizing municipal specifications and contracts as a way of saving public owners money on civil works projects.
v) Canadian Construction Association Indigenous Peoples Engagement
There are ever increasing investment and economic opportunities to facilitate the development of long-term business relationships between the construction industry and Indigenous peoples. The WCR&HCA supported the development of an Industry/Indigenous People engagement best practices guide to assist the industry in its relations with Indigenous communities; the guide is expected to be released at the June 2016 CCA meetings.
By 2017, the grounds were shifting in the broader political arena, and organizationally for the WCR&HCA. The BCRB&HCA decided at the 2016 AGM to step back and discontinue its engagement with the WCR&HCA (It would prove temporary). It is good to remember that disruption is the opportunity for growth by embracing change. In that context, the WCR&HCA, in setting its 2017 priorities, focused on key initiatives and fundamental organizational decisions, including:
- Trade Team West initiative gaining momentum and progress;
- The economic and market-based impacts on the 2017 convention; and
- Challenges faced as a result of the departure from membership of the BCRB&HCA.
Some of the fundamental areas for consideration:
- Commitment to continue WCR&HCA’s mission as a "Committed advocate for growth of the economy and industry;"
- Consideration of a name change and by-law update;
- Continue pursuing Trade Team West
At the March 11, 2019 meeting of the WCR&HCA Board of Directors reviewed its strategic plan. Saskatchewan and Manitoba resolved to continue WCR&HCA’s advocacy work to ensure a Western voice is heard on regional and national economic and infrastructure issues. Alberta committed to discuss the current strategic plan with its Board; ARHCA was invited to continue its membership in the WCR&HCA.
- Canada West Foundation – research
- Expected project delivery date is end of summer 2020.
- The document, now title: ‘Fixing an existential threat: finding the right trade infrastructure investments to rebuild the economy and repair Canada’s global trade reputation’ is progressing. Added to the original concept of the initiative will be a plan for advocacy and a policy paper which is easier to push for dissemination and liaising with federal, provincial, and municipal leaders to the scope of work via the budget and call for proposals.
- We have engaged with Canada Business Council and Canadian Chamber of Commerce to assist financially and with dissemination, advocacy and liaison work
- To successfully rebound from the COVID-19 crisis and seize upon emerging global trade opportunities, Canada needs to commit to a strategic, purpose-driven, and sustained plan for trade infrastructure investment to sustain and grow our trade-based economy.
- The required investments include improving our ability to move product to and from markets reliably, competitively, and efficiently. To do that requires an assessment of our current trade gateways and corridors system and work with the private sector to use new information and data to identify projected needs, to develop and launch the necessary program for critical upgrades to, and investment in, our national trade transportation network.
- The project will be a national and regional analysis that illustrates the benefits to flow across Canada from existing trade and new trade agreements and identify where the greatest ROI to GDP lies from trade transportation infrastructure investment. The goal is to highlight the need for renewed, robust federal/provincial/private sector investment in trade transportation infrastructure and underscore the costs should Canada not seize upon the opportunity before the country.
- The report's evidence-based approach will enable advocacy - provincial, regional, and national - by including regional examples supporting the requisite sense of urgency and nation building purpose.
- Trade barriers – local preference practices
The following motion was approved:
WHEREAS decisions have been made by the Government of Saskatchewan to introduce restrictive trade practices associated with Saskatchewan Infrastructure (and other) bid opportunities;
AND WHEREAS the heavy construction industry has historically and consistently stood in support of unfettered competitive bidding including the elimination of inter-provincial trade barriers;
AND WHEREAS the WCR&HCA has consistently expressed support for the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA) and the free trade principles underpinning its objectives;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the WCR&HCA respectfully communicate to the Premiers of the 3 Prairie provinces, an appeal to maintain strict compliance with the free trade provisions of the NWPTA in the broad best economic interests of the public, the economy, commerce and industry.