Rock to Road

News
Delivering core infrastructure on time


May 26, 2016
By Barry Steinberg

May 26, 2016 – The conversation highlighting the dilemma of how governments, especially municipalities, are going to deliver on much needed core infrastructure is well known; even well worn. It is no mystery that Ontario communities, large and small, rural and urban are in urgent need of new and refurbished systems to provide essential services to their citizens.

The Ontario and federal governments, recognizing the magnitude of this need, have made unprecedented investment commitments collectively totalling more than $285 billion over the next ten years, $160 billion from Queen’s Park and $125 billion from Ottawa. The challenge now is to actually deliver on these commitments.

We have learned in recent years just how complicated a task it is to build, replace and refurbish the infrastructure that makes up the foundation of our communities. We have become more familiar with the necessities of sound, evidence-based planning, prudent financial analysis and budgeting in order to efficiently and effectively build and maintain our cities and towns. However, a vital piece of this equation for success remains overlooked; the importance of sound, equitable contracts.

A good project agreement is crucial for delivering projects on-time and on-budget. It defines the nature of the relationship and lays the ground rules for how parties involved in the project will get the work done. This was the catalyst for Consulting Engineers of Ontario (CEO) and the Municipal Engineers Association (MEA) to come together and revise their joint standard agreement between municipalities and engineering firms.

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Ontario’s infrastructure sector has become increasingly complicated in recent years. New forms of project delivery, economic and budgetary pressures, changing businesses practices and people’s ability and willingness to manage and accept the risk associated with delivering these projects in good order represent substantial challenges for even the biggest of communities and businesses. Their impact on smaller communities and engineering companies can be and often is unforgiving. As a result, increasingly aggressive project agreements that actually hamper the projects they are meant to deliver are being used. Ontario’s smaller communities, often without engineering departments, have difficulty anticipating and managing project risks, which drive the additional costs and delays they are unable to bear.

The new CEO/MEA template agreement promotes a collaborative approach between municipal clients and their consultants. Rooted in mutually equitable and consistent terms and conditions, the freshly updated agreement fosters a more healthy business environment that respects municipal pressures such as cost control and project delivery with the needs of engineers to complete their work according to the industry best practices of value-based engineering. These are the conditions that must be taken into account and respected if we are to make the most of the opportunity we have to rebuild Ontario.

Barry Steinberg is CEO of Consulting Engineers of Ontario, which represents the interests of 200 engineering firms employing nearly 20,000 Ontarians.