Members of Parliament Join AED Members for the Most Successful Ottawa Briefing To Date!

AED members are faced with the dual threat of an aging workforce and a shortage of skilled laborers.  The heavy equipment industry is in a continuous technological upshift, with increased complexity of systems, onboard computers, remote controls and sensors. The skills shortage in this sector has translated into lost economic opportunity. A major theme of the 2017 federal budget was recognition that Canada needs to train or retrain workers at various stages of their careers in the skilled trades so that they can be part of today’s economy and the economy of the future. Here is a look at the 2017 budget, which outlines Canada’s response to the shortage of skilled laborers in our sector.

The next day kicked off with AED President and CEO Brian P. McGuire and Bluesky Strategy Group’s Senior Vice President Stuart McCarthy updating members on the state of affairs regarding AED’s key areas of focus in Canada. This included our successful advocacy for changes to electronic logging device regulations, which will see greater harmonization with American standards. Members also learned about other advocacy efforts AED is making in Canada, including meetings held on the previous day with senior officials from the prime minister’s office and the departments of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Natural Resources, Global Affairs, Finance, Employment and Social Development, and Transport Canada. (These will be detailed in a separate Canadian Legislative Update.)
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!

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