ACEC-Ontario highlights contracts, procurement, diversity in pre-budget paper

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standardized contracts
At the national level, ACEC-Canada is a member of the Canadian Construction Documents Committee, which develops, produces, and reviews standard construction contracts, forms, and guides. Photo Credit: Andrey Popov, stock.adobe.com

In its pre-budget submission, the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies Ontario (ACEC-Ontario) is calling on the provincial government to introduce standardized contracts to ensure smooth project delivery and a pool of high-quality competitive bidders. 

The recommendation comes as the British Columbia government announced in late January that it would standardize contracts for architectural and engineering design assignments, a move that had been in the works since 2018. 

ACEC-BC said the standardized contracts — based on national standard form agreements — support fairness, transparency, and efficiency. 

ACEC-Ontario notes in its pre-budget submission that the consulting engineering industry has a history of working together with governments and stakeholders to develop these types of agreements. At the national level, ACEC-Canada is a member of the Canadian Construction Documents Committee, which develops, produces, and reviews standard construction contracts, forms and guides. 

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For ACEC-Ontario, standardized contracts are just one of a dozen recommendations for provincial leaders on a list that covers areas such as risk allocation, procurement models, and the benefit of fostering a diverse science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce.   

“Ontario isn’t merely investing in infrastructure; it’s investing in its legacy. By adopting these recommendations, the government will help ensure that our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have a strong community where they can live, grow, and succeed,” announced Andrew Hurd, executive director of ACEC-Ontario, in a statement. 

In terms of appropriate risk allocation for projects, ACEC-Ontario warns that in recent years Ontario has begun to shift more and more risk from the province to consulting engineering firms. In its pre-budget recommendations, the association says consulting engineering firms face challenges when project owners “try to force firms to accept risks and assume additional liability that would not be covered by the consulting engineering firm’s professional liability insurance.” 

As a remedy, ACEC-Ontario suggests government ministries and agencies must ensure the level of risk transferred is “appropriate and allocated to the member of the project team best able to handle”, and no risk is transferred when not covered by insurance. 

Additionally, ACEC-Ontario said the government uses a “limited” set of procurement models, and the association is calling for a “framework” in place that highlights all available procurement models, along with an appropriate decision-making process, particularly for projects that are more unique, complex, and long-term. 

In the same vein, ACEC-Ontario continues to lobby for a move away from a lowest bid wins procurement process towards a qualifications-based selection that would avoid a race to the bottom on pricing, while reducing cost overruns and schedule delays. 

In terms of diversity, ACEC-Ontario submits that men comprise nearly 50% of the population, but make up 86% of licensed engineers in Ontario. The association says consideration is needed for adding social procurement and equity clauses to procurement contracts.  

ACEC-Ontario is also calling for an increase in government-funded programs and an exploration of new opportunities in the Ontario educational curriculum in the coming years that would continue the notable increase of newly-licensed women engineers seen over 2021-2022. 

“Harnessing our collective purchasing power is an influential path we should explore that will help create measured, system-level change,” states ACEC-Ontario in its recommendation to the province.  

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