A progressive, innovative and sustainable construction industry

By Mary Van Buren, Canadian Construction Association

Representing 20,000-plus member firms, the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) is proud of our mission to inspire a progressive, innovative and sustainable construction industry. 

The key to our success is working with valued partner associations like the Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association (SHCA). We are powered by your engagement. Together, we are driving change on key issues that make a real impact, not only for the industry but for all Canadians. 

Workforce an urgent priority

We achieved some headway with the federal government on our collective cornerstone issue to rebuild Canada’s workforce through immigration reform. The Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship recently announced a new process under the Express Entry program to welcome skilled newcomers with work experience in occupations considered a priority in Canada. Ten occupations in construction, including carpenters, plumbers, welders and electricians, are included in the list of nearly 83 jobs.

Our collective efforts to make the workforce shortage issue a priority for the Government of Canada – bringing the message locally, provincially and federally through our Hill Day and semi-annual Meech Lake meetings – has also generated government support for investing in promotion of the trades and increasing immigration targets to help ease the shortfall.

Conversations will continue, as the government needs to create a more supportive environment to alleviate the labour choke points that risk crippling Canada’s economic growth. This includes changing an outdated immigration point system and working with provinces to ensure better skills matching.

The urgent need for skilled trade workers is also receiving nationwide attention as we work to build the number of apprentices, through our partnership with the Canadian Apprenticeship Service (CAS), and turn construction into a first-choice career, through our industry-wide Talent Fits Here campaign. Within the first six months of the CAS program, over $2 million in funds have been dispersed to eligible employers and 47 per cent of the apprentices self-identified as being from an equity-deserving group. 

To build the infrastructure needed across the country and recruit the workforce of the future, federal procurement strategies need to adapt to encourage innovation, include contractors earlier in the process, account for long-term value and sustainability, promote the use of alternative delivery models and support shared risk.

A smart infrastructure plan backed by investment 

Over the past two years, CCA has been actively pursuing more investment in key trade gateways and corridors across the country. This included partnering with the Western Canada Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association and bringing in national partners, like Export Development Canada, the Business Council of Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, to build the support we need among politicians and Canadians. CCA helped fund the report, From shovel ready to shovel worthy, to strengthen our case. 

We are gaining traction, with some modest investments proposed in the 2023 Federal Budget to strengthen Canada’s transportation systems and supply chain infrastructure. Real growth, though, will not come from Band-aid solutions. It will come from a long-term initiative, coordinated with the provinces, to develop a National Trade Corridor.  

CCA has always maintained that one size does not fit all. Every region and municipality, including our Indigenous communities, have different needs and priorities. The National Infrastructure Assessment would have helped create an integrated, apolitical strategy on how Canada would prioritize, finance and deliver critical infrastructure projects, but there has been no movement on this promised 2021 federal initiative. We cannot afford to wait. As the industry’s national advocate, CCA will continue its outreach on this issue so policymakers understand the risks of their inaction – aging infrastructure, damage to our reputation as a trading partner and inadequate supply chains, to name a few.

Fair procurement

The value of involving contractors earlier in a project is gaining steam. CCA obtained a commitment from government leaders at its semi-annual Meech Lake meeting to establish a working group on procurement and project delivery methods. To build the infrastructure needed across the country and recruit the workforce of the future, federal procurement strategies need to adapt to encourage innovation, include contractors earlier in the process, account for long-term value and sustainability, promote the use of alternative delivery models and support shared risk.

CCA will be continuing its summer Standard Practices Tour to learn first-hand from members about their challenges with current procurement practices. There will be more information on this topic over the next few months.

CCA’s Best Practices Services is delivering new resources – some of which are being developed through the work of our National Advisory Councils. We are also increasing our outreach to buyers of construction so we can educate them on the benefits of sharing risk and involving contractors early in the project.

Action-backed policies to support green infrastructure

Canada’s construction industry is ready to become a leader in the transition to a net-zero economy. We submitted detailed recommendations on developing a buy clean policy, mandating change, enabling investment decisions, growing Canada’s advantage in building practices, technology and building materials as well as training and incentivizing the future workforce. Following the submission, CCA has been invited to participate in a working group on Canada’s Green Buildings Strategy. CCA and our partners are also aligning on our message that governments must update building codes, provide incentives for businesses, share climate data and create a list of approved “green” materials.

Budget 2023’s proposed tax credits in clean technologies and hydrogen are a missed opportunity that we plan to address. Tying restrictive labour conditions to these incentives effectively discriminates against an important segment of the Canadian workforce and, in particular, small and medium-sized companies. Over the next few months, CCA will be reinforcing our budget asks in support of a strong economy through meetings with senior government leaders, a robust outreach strategy leading into the summer recess, and Hill Day 2023 where the industry will convene to make our message heard in Ottawa.   

Mary Van Buren is the president of the Canadian Construction Association.

You can count on CCA to be a collaborative partner to the Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association, providing helpful tools, sharing best practices across the country and being your voice with the federal government. Stay in the loop by subscribing to CCA’s newsletter at, by following @ConstructionCAN on Twitter, or by looking up Canadian Construction Association on LinkedIn.