Looking Back, Moving Forward - The year that was and what lies ahead.
By Andrew Macklin
This past year turned out to be a busy one for Canada’s aggregates and roadbuilding industry.
This past year turned out to be a busy one for Canada’s aggregates and roadbuilding industry. Many companies I spoke with throughout the year, from one coast to the other, were happy about the production demands and paving volumes they encountered in 2013.
The equipment manufacturing industry saw positive development in Canada, with imports from the U.S. continuing to stay strong. Several equipment manufacturers expanded their presence in Canada by adding new distribution centres, and we saw the emergence of Chinese companies in the Canadian landscape.
For the equipment itself, manufacturers emphasized engine emissions technology as the countdown to Tier 4 Final began south of the border. There was also a greater focus put on operator comfort and ease of operation in response to customer demands for greater control, better visibility and less physical strain.
It was a mixed bag on the political front for the rock to road industry in 2013, as provincial governments worked to prioritize infrastructure in a financial climate that is seeing cuts to most government ministries. Still, infrastructure spending remains strong with a few exceptions, and the prospects for future demand look OK.
One factor that could change all that, for better or worse, is the introduction of the Building Canada plan. It was announced in 2013 that the federal government was indeed renewing the program and had plans for major investments nationwide. In 2014, those plans will be laid out and the true impact of the investment will become clear.
When we see the contents of that document, learn where the emphasis lies in terms of infrastructure spending, and witness the political fallout of the plan, we will be a lot closer to understanding just how this industry will fare in the decade to come. The current Conservative government has stated that it wants to continue strong investments in infrastructure across the entire country, with opportunities in all provinces. But, it would be shortsighted not to remember that this country is poised to go to the polls in the next 18 months. A Building Canada plan proposal that doesn’t appease the demands of the opposition could cause the plan to fall apart following the next general election. That could lead to anything from moderate to disastrous results for the industry and individual contractors.
Ontario remains the market to watch for aggregate producers as two important documents take shape in 2014. Recommendations from the political committee that reviewed the Aggregate Resources Act could become part of that legislation this year, and the Cornerstone Standards Council looks to set up an aggregates certification program in the province.
The newly formed Concrete Council of Canada could provide an example for aggregate and roadbuilding associations to follow. The concept of bringing together provincial associations to form a national group is something I have discussed before as a good idea for this industry, and this could be the model for doing so.
Lastly, this is a very big year for industry events. CONEXPO-CON/AGG in March will be massive, and many companies are already hinting at the new equipment that will be launched. The Atlantic Heavy Equipment Show will follow that in April and then Hillhead in June, providing two other solid trade show options for seeing new gear.
Clearly 2014 will be a busy year in the rock to road industry in Canada.