By Ted Wigdor
First Impressions – Aggregate producers key to Ontario infrastructure build
By Ted Wigdor
The first few weeks in my new role as CEO of the Ontario Stone, Sand
& Gravel Association (OSSGA) have reconfirmed a couple of different
perspectives on the aggregate – vantage points that I’m certain will
continue to evolve and expand in the coming months.
The first few weeks in my new role as CEO of the Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (OSSGA) have reconfirmed a couple of different perspectives on the aggregate – vantage points that I’m certain will continue to evolve and expand in the coming months.
Meeting aggregate producers and touring rehabilitated gravel pits were highlights. I was struck not only by the passion, but also by their dedication to go above and beyond what is required to rehabilitate the land. It’s clearly a source of pride to producers and enlightening to observers.
Connecting with elected officials at the municipal and provincial levels at the annual Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) conference was also very timely. Both levels of government are together the largest builders of public infrastructure and users of aggregate resources in the province.
While the producer and politician perspectives differed in outlook, it did neatly sum up some of the challenges and opportunities before us.
Before I elaborate, please allow me to take a moment to introduce myself. My background is in government relations, association management and leadership – all of which has given me the opportunity to grapple with many complex issues and work with business and government to find a proactive solution. It’s a style that I believe will complement OSSGA’s approach.
Most recently, I was Vice-President of Government and Corporate Affairs at the Certified General Accountants (CGA) of Ontario. As part of the association’s leadership team, my responsibilities included leading all interactions with government, involvement in the strategic planning process and working with organizations such as the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and C.D. Howe Institute to advance public policy issues important to the membership and profession.
Prior to joining CGA Ontario, I was President of Susan A. Murray Consulting (SAMCI), which develops and executes government relations strategies for business clients.
It was at SAMCI that I worked with the Ontario division of the Cement Association of Canada. Among our accomplishments was the formation of a non-partisan Cement Caucus at Queen’s Park.
Looking ahead, consider the mandate that the Ontario government received in June to build and renew Ontario’s infrastructure – particularly roads, highways and transit. Municipalities are also investing more in roads and bridges than ever before – often in partnership with the provincial and federal governments.
Consider also that the majority of the stone, sand and gravel currently produced in Ontario is used in building public infrastructure and this need is only expected to grow in the next decade. Yet, the current approval process for the licensing of a gravel pit or quarry in Ontario can take eight, ten or even twelve years to complete.
Herein lies both the challenge and opportunity.
With governments planning a significant increase in their contribution to transportation and public infrastructure, they are going to need a steady supply of aggregate to make it happen. That’s why my overall objective is to strengthen OSSGA’s partnership with government and work collaboratively with stakeholders – because collectively we are building the infrastructure that sustains Ontario.
And we’re doing so in a sustainable way. As I saw first-hand, aggregate producers are doing award-winning rehabilitation work. Increasing the profile and public awareness of this work is certainly one of our priorities.
We also need to raise awareness that ensuring a ready, close-to-market supply of aggregate helps reduce the environmental and traffic congestion impact of hauling greater distances to job sites.
For example, one statistic that I recently read noted that if haul distances were double what they are now, it would translate to the equivalent of the annual emissions from over 40,000 cars. Considering that supply in the currently licensed pits and quarries within reach of the GTA diminishes year by year, this should be a call to action. One of our goals must be to expedite the approval process.
Food for thought. Our collaboration will result in reduced emissions, abundant supply of aggregate to meet the province’s needs while sustaining our economy and quality of life for years to come.
Ted Wigdor, CEO, Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Association