March 18, 2005


$20 billion needed

Council will push for investment in Canada’s system of highways

CANCUN, Mexico

Convincing federal politicians that investment in the national highway program is Canada’s most pressing transportation need is a top 2005 priority for the Canadian Construction Association’s (CCA) roadbuilders and heavy construction council.

“Clearly, we’re not getting the message across,” said council chair Lloyd Ferguson, general manager of Dufferin Construction Co. of Oakville, Ont. He described the national highway program as a “tough sell.”

Lloyd Ferguson

It is estimated that some $20 billion is needed to bring the 25,000-kilometre national highway system up to snuff. CCA was disappointed that no funding commitments were made in the recent federal budget.

Ferguson, a past president of the Hamilton Construction Association, the Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association and the Ontario Road Builders’ Association, outlined his council’s key 2005 priorities at a meeting during CCA’s annual conference.

The council is targeting federal politicians of all stripes in its lobbying campaign — from transport minister Jean Lapierre and house transport committee chair Roger Gallaway to Conservative infrastructure critic Rahim Jaffer and transport critic James Moore.

“We need to ask both of these MPs to add the national highway program to the Conservative election platform and badger the government on these issues in the House of Commons,” Ferguson said.

To date, the council has been unable to arrange a meeting with Lapierre.

One of its objectives for the coming year is to continue to put pressure on Gallaway to ask the House transport committee to hold hearings into the state of the national highway program.

Other priorities for the coming year are:

— Environmental: Develop a case to convince governments that highways represent a green investment. Seek approval from Infrastructure Canada for a $500,000 grant to the National Research Council for a green highway study and release the results of that study to decision-makers in government and to the public.

The study would examine the impact on greenhouse gas emissions of additional highway capacity.

“If you want a highway solution, you’ve got to make it green,” Ferguson said.

— Stakeholder awareness: Host a summit on the national highway program and invite federal and provincial politicians as well as key stakeholders from the financial community, building/design community and the regulatory community.

“We may want to partner with the Transportation Association of Canada or another association to handle the logistics of such a summit,” Ferguson said.

— Development of a TRIP Canada (The Road and Infrastructure Program of Canada) Web site by the end of May. The site is to include data on why Canada needs a national highway program, a fatigue management guide, a youth promotional video, and an asphalt plant guide.

— Lobbying Canada Revenue Agency and the Ministry of Revenue to exclude employee’s use of company-owned vehicles as a taxable benefit under certain conditions.

“This issue affects roadbuilders more than general and trade contractors,” Ferguson said.

In his presentation, Ferguson also reviewed the council’s success in meeting its 2004 objectives, giving it an A, for example, in its lobbying the federal government to allocate a portion of the federal gas tax for municipal infrastructure.

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