by Shantel Lipp Shantel Lipp
Shantel Lipp

The opportunity to get together with others in the industry is always time well spent and I can say that some very good time was spent together at the #WCRStrongerTogether2023 conference earlier this month.

Hundreds of delegates from across Western Canada gathered in Waikiki between Feb. 5–9, where they listened to industry speakers, attended networking events and learned – a lot.

It was enlightening to hear about the future of equipment in the industry and how green technology can best be incorporated. Knowing how this equipment must perform in our industry, it was clear we will need to continue to rely on diesel together with alternative energy sources, including batteries, to fuel machines that must run for long hours doing energy-intensive work. It was also interesting to hear how equipment is becoming more autonomous, reducing the need for human labour and improving efficiency on worksites.

Many speakers shared their perspectives on the role of the industry in supporting Canada’s economy. A highlight for me was the keynote address by former Alberta cabinet minister and now Canada West Foundation President Gary Mar.

You will recall the report that was developed by Canada West Foundation last year, From Shovel Ready to Shovel Worthy. Mar shared the ideas that report delivers – that Canada has been spending on one-off projects rather than investing in strategic trade routes that will deliver a return on that investment, and that other nations have implemented long-term investment strategies that prioritize infrastructure projects based on their ability to meet criteria. That difference is causing Canada to become less competitive in the global trade markets.

Mar also reminded those listening about the difference between national and federal. He pointed out that there can be a national initiative led by provinces working with industry, which has expertise to know how to accomplish what is needed, while also partnering with municipalities and First Nations to move towards strategic investment in infrastructure rather than simply spending on it. That was a powerful message to hear and consider.

Panel discussions covered how our industry supports trade, which helps to grow Canada’s economy with speakers such as Brad Wall, the former premier of Saskatchewan, Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Mary Van Buren, president and CEO of the Canadian Construction Association (CCA).

For those interested, click here to watch Trade Infrastructure panellists Beaty, Wall and Mar summarize their session at the WCR&HCA conference.

“Politicians need to know the skill and experience of those working in the industry when we are explaining our labour needs.”

It was heartening to hear our industry recognized for what we contribute to the strength of this country’s economy, not just in terms of what is built, but also the knowledge and experience members, such as yourself, possess that can help inform decisions about investment. Speakers reminded us that our industry generates far more than the projects we build. As Wall told those listening to the panel, “There’s a lot of long-term job creators in this room and I don’t think you’re thanked enough by government.”

We were also reminded how important it is for government to hear from those working in the industry to better understand and benefit from it. Politicians need to know the skill and experience of those working in the industry when we are explaining our labour needs. Details in the procurement process impact and even burden industry, and they need to have that explained. They need to be reminded of how efficient and effective relationships with industry generate results more quickly.

Those in attendance were reminded that they don’t have to wait for formal invitations to meetings with politicians to share their perspective. As Rod Gilbert, the VP of procurement for the CCA pointed out, you can have these discussions when out in the community where you might encounter someone in the government.

The same is true for those of us in the industry talking to one another. Anyone who was unable to attend the conference who would like to know more can get in touch and I’d be happy to discuss with you what was shared by the speakers and learn how these issues relate to your business. I’m sure the new chair of the Western Canada Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association, Carmen Duncan, would also not mind hearing from you. These are weighty issues that have tremendous importance when looking at the future of our country, so we need to keep them moving ahead by talking about them and how we make progress on them.

These types of events are important to help nurture these conversations. If this sounds like an event you’d benefit from attending in the in future, I’d encourage you to watch for information about the next conference, which is scheduled for 2025.