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February 9, 2011

Infrastructure vital to future says Canadian Construction Association

Industry concerns over the future of Canadian infrastructure are not just based on a hunger for business opportunities, says the Canadian Construction Association.

“We have become involved in this debate, not for self interest but because it is critical to future generations of Canada,” said Wayne Morsky, chair of CCA. “Without roads, we have no way to move product, without offices, people have no place to work, without schools we have no place to learn and without hospitals people have no place to heal.”

Wayne Morsky

Wayne Morsky

Morsky recently presented an update of CCA’s priorities and activities during the Ontario Road Builders’ Association convention in Toronto.

Morsky said CCA is calling on all levels of government to come together and appoint an arms-length taskforce to study and develop infrastructure priorities and promote new ways of funding these “critical economic and social assets.”

CCA has demonstrated its commitment to improving Canada’s infrastructure by helping develop a national report card on the state of Canada infrastructure.

The association partnered with the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Canadian Public Works Association on the project.

Morsky noted that $10 billion spent on infrastructure could generate approximately 115,000 jobs and that every government dollar spent on infrastructure yields a 35 cent return in new tax revenue.

“China is spending nine per cent of its GDP on infrastructure, Europe five per cent, while Canada spends about two per cent,” added Morsky.

CCA anticipates governments will start using public-private partnerships with “increasing regularity” to help build infrastructure and the challenge will be to not exclude participation of small and medium sized construction firms.

“In construction, small- and medium-size firms are our engine,” Morsky said. “According to Statistics Canada, 65 per cent of all construction business have fewer than 50 employees and 75 per cent have fewer than 100 employees.”

Labour supply for Canadian construction remains a critical priority for CCA and the entire industry with a projected 395,000 new workers required by 2018 thanks to impending retirements and growth in demand.

In its recent pre-budget submission, CCA recommended to the federal government that it extend its Knowledge Infrastructure Program and restore the Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit to the “true incentive” it was intended to be. In 2007, the Canada Revenue Agency required that the tax credit be treated as income, thereby neutralizing any benefit to employers.

“These are just two small measures we will continue to lobby the federal government on,” said Morsky. “More will have to be done if we wish to avoid a serious shortage in the future.”

The association chair believes that industry needs to reach out to underemployed groups to bring them into the mainstream workforce. Morsky said the Aboriginal community is a group that with some “training and support” could help strengthen the construction labour supply.

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