We then launched four panels, taking a deeper dive into concerns raised by our Canadian members. The first panel featured two representatives from Transport Canada who went into detail on the status of the trucking regulations. Canadian Trucking Alliance’s Geoffrey Wood and Barrie Kirk, cofounder and executive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence, informed members about how they view the industry today and how it will evolve.
of infrastructure spending in Canada. Although the discussion was positive, including Ontario Road Builders Association’s COO David Caplan emphasizing that Canada has among the highest completion rates of approved infrastructure projects, the panel came days after Budget 2018 showed that over $4 billion of pledged infrastructure spending has lapsed. Infrastructure Canada’s Director General Tushara Williams explained the delay in funding and reiterated the government’s commitment that all the lapsed funding will be spent.
At lunch, Senator Dennis Dawson’s lighthearted speech regarding the state of the transportation sector and its future entertained our attendees. Following that, the workforce development panel confronted us with the fact that the industry will be facing 24,000 vacant positions, largely technicians, within a few years. Representatives from Centennial and Conestoga colleges spoke of the challenges they have in attracting and training new technicians and the steps they are taking to address this growing shortage. Bob Collins from BuildForce Canada expressed his concerns as well, but highlighted that the government is taking this issue seriously, investing heavily in skills-training initiatives, specifically to better integrate Indigenous Canadians and women in the skilled trades.
The last panel, on the state of international trade talks, was extremely timely, as President Trump had announced, just hours before, his intention to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrew Leslie, Director General of Trade Negotiations David Usher, and President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Perrin Beatty shared their insights on the direction in which trade talks are progressing and how groups like AED can be effective in countering protectionist moves that will hurt our sector.
This was the most successful Ottawa Briefing yet. From the humble roots of five distributors attending our first meeting, we have now reached the point where we need to find larger rooms to hold our receptions and briefings. We will keep you informed of all government engagement efforts, and we look forward to seeing you next year!