One More Load: A Canada-wide aggregates association
By Anthony Murdoch
Why not create a national voice for the aggregates industry?
By Anthony Murdoch
As a nation with vast natural resources in aggregates, it might come as a surprise to those not in the know in the sand and gravel community that Canada has no national aggregates association. While the idea around the creation of a national Canadian aggregates association has been floated around by some in the community before, the reality is that there has been no real driving force or main issue to push for the creation of such an organization.
Indeed, even within the ranks of the Alberta Sand & Gravel Association (ASGA) the question can be a polarizing one. Alberta’s aggregate sector and certainly the rest of Canada’s are highly localized, designed to be as efficient as possible in terms of having a good and steady supply close to projects and demand. This means that issues are generally local in nature, and best dealt with at the municipal or provincial level. However, the idea of more provincial cooperation is generally welcomed within the ranks of the ASGA, even though it might not mean the creation of a national organization – although this is something that should at least be talked about becoming a possibility down the road.
ASGA president Dale Soetaert, who serves as land manager of northern Alberta and B.C. for Lehigh Hanson Materials Limited out of Edmonton, welcomes the idea in principal of a national association, noting the only real downsides he sees are maybe a few economic competitive sensitivities and the fact that most provinces do not even have local associations.
“It is strange to me that there are no associations in some provinces that clearly rely on aggregates as much or more than Alberta does. We can assist those provinces with our structures and support, to more easily create their own associations. What has worked for us, what hasn’t. Information is important to not make the same mistakes or capitalize on successes others have had. Why not now?” Soetaert said.
Soetaert notes that the ASGA already has great relations with the other aggregates associations that currently exist, namely the Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (OSSGA) and the British Columbia Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (BCSSGA). He feels that perhaps the first thing to do is come up with a strategy to educate the general public about the importance of aggerates, which might help spur more interest at the local level.
“I think the start of a basic strategy would be an education program that informs the general public on the existence of aggregates in infrastructure all around them, and the financial impact of our industry on all the economies, local, provincial and national,” he said. “With the existence of provincial associations in every province, the potential to lobby for a wider range of regulatory changes, potentially federally, might become possible. Think of it as an attempt to recognize the value of the industry across the country, and the need (recognition) for aggregates to be available for the economic prosperity of Canada.”
Both the OSSGA and the BCSSGA have collaborated with the ASGA on many occasions, a recent example being BCSSGA first vice-president Tyson Craiggs giving an address at the 2019 ASGA AGM & Tradeshow.
Overall, the ASGA Board of Directors is positive about increased cooperation between the provinces and sees very little downside to it. When it comes to a national organization, however, more practical issues come up, such as staffing resources, as well as ensuring that provincial issues always take top priority.
“Care would need to be taken to ensure that the appropriate balance is struck between achieving value for our members for the necessary time and resources invested in fostering those relationships. Other associations would rightfully expect access to our own insights and programs, which all take time to provide. Meanwhile, the issues that our members face in Alberta continue to need time and attention from the association,” notes ASGA past-president Travis Coates, who works as the land and resource manager for BURNCO Rock Products out of Calgary.
Coates also notes that, in his opinion, creating a national Canadian aggerates association might be a step too far; however, increasing cooperation between the associations is a good and needed first step.
“Perhaps a national association is something that could be looked at in the future. I think the best thing we can do on this front is to lead by example. If a successful gravel strategy can be developed in Alberta, we could then look to share that with others,” he said.
Whether or not a national aggregates association for Canada is formed one day, the idea of increased cooperation can only benefit all parties involved and is a topic the ASGA is not afraid to discuss openly. With growing regulatory burdens and application times for new projects taking an ever-increasing amount of time, the aggregates sector is always looking for ways to help move things forward, and not get stuck in an un-changing cycle.
“Yes, the aggregate industry should not sit idle and assume that threats will go away and that we will always have access to material,” says ASGA director Joe Hustler, who works for Knelsen Sand and Gravel based out of Grand Prairie, Alta. “We see industries such as dairy, oil and gas, agriculture and tourism creating national campaigns to promote their industry. The aggregate industry would benefit from getting ahead of issues and having a network to support industry should we need it.”
Anthony Murdoch is the communications and events coordinator for the Alberta Sand & Gravel Association.