Federal Finance Committee adopts several OSPE recommendations

On February 16, the federal government’s Standing Committee on Finance (FINA) tabled its pre-budget consultation. OSPE is glad to see that this report includes several recommendations that Ontario’s engineering community has been advocating for.

In its pre-budget consultation report, titled Investing in Tomorrow: Canadian Priorities for Economic Growth and Recovery, the committee makes numerous recommendations under the following themes:

  • People
  • Communities
  • Businesses
  • Fiscal policy, Regulatory Framework and Trade; and
  • Environment and Climate Change


The following recommendations have a direct impact on our Engineering community:

Recommendation 44: Reorient employment supports and develop a training system that supports green jobs.

OSPE recommends the need to train engineers for the skills required to succeed in the energy efficiency and green building sector.

As Ontario and Canada transition towards a low-carbon future, the energy efficiency, and green jobs, will be at the forefront of change. To accelerate this, we need to strengthen the capacity of the existing workforce and attract more people to work in these sectors.

While the labour market has faced severe disarray from the pandemic, it also presents an opportunity to re-skill unemployed and under-employed Canadians, with a focus on sectors with sustainable long-term growth.

In 2018, the green building sector directly employed approximately 436,000 workers across 51,000 establishments in Canada within the following key industries: construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, professional and business services, and utilities, all of which employ engineers. Together, these generated $82.6 billion in estimated energy efficiency operating revenues in 2018. In the next 10 years, targeted investment, and policies in support of green buildings can lead to 626,080 direct green building jobs in Canada. Engineers are key to planning and executing the green projects that will provide these jobs. Without engineers this sector will not flourish.

However, despite this growth, research from the Environmental Careers Organization of Canada reveals that employers are generally experiencing difficulties hiring energy managers/directors/consultants, jobs which engineers can perform.

OSPE commends the government’s further investment in this sector, as it would not only help fight climate change, but would also stimulate the economy by creating more jobs for Ontarians across the entire province. This is extremely important now more than ever, due to high unemployment rates experienced because of theCOVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring an adequate supply of skilled workers is crucial to supporting the sector’s growth.

Recommendation 66: As part of the economic recovery, accelerate investments in infrastructure for fighting climate change, particularly investments in public transportation.

Recommendation 143: Significantly increase the electrification of federal government and Crown vehicle fleets.

OSPE has been calling on all orders of government to accelerate the electrification of the transportation system, including electric vehicle (EV) adoption.

Canada and its provinces should work towards a safe, green, innovative, and integrated transportation system that is able to support a clean environment, while boosting trade, economic growth, and public safety. Policies should seek to develop and foster a transportation system that works for current and future generations.

Electric motors are about three times more energy efficient than the internal combustion engine under ideal operating conditions. Electric vehicles (EVs) also reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and take advantage of the province’s largely low carbon electricity grid. Transit use will likely decline because of the pandemic, so adoption of EVs may limit the resulting increase in GHG emissions from the transportation sector. Investing in EVs provides the opportunity of achieving short-term results, while allowing clean sectors to grow sustainably over time.

By increasing the uptake of EVs in Canada and Ontario and encouraging recharging during evenings, EVs will in effect store Ontario’s surplus energy supply, which will significantly reduce the amount of surplus energy that is sold for a loss to external jurisdictions and/or curtailed, which is currently costing Ontario energy ratepayers approximately $1 billion per year.

The government also has the opportunity of electrifying its public bus fleet. Investments in electric public transport have an amplified positive impact since the vehicles run several hours per day. For individual consumers, EVs cost a quarter of the price to drive than gas vehicles. This means, the average Canadian driver, who travels 20,000 km per year, would save as much as $2,000 per year on fuel alone.

Recommendation 80: Establish a dedicated funding program to support early-mover proponents in the Small Modular Reactor (SMR) sector as part of its SMR Action Plan.

OSPE understands the importance of investing in Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) to create jobs in the nuclear energy industry

Nuclear energy in Canada provides 60% of Ontario’s electricity supply. The nuclear industry employs thousands of highly educated and skilled people. As new large, centralized nuclear projects are not being built, there is a growing acknowledgement of the need for smarter, simpler, and cheaper nuclear energy. SMRs, defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as nuclear reactors that generate under 300 megawatts of electricity, are being developed around the world for that purpose.

Canada has long been a leader in developing new nuclear technology and SMR technology has the potential to provide emission free and affordable energy for a low-carbon future. SMRs require lower capital investment and so can potentially compete with other low-cost forms of electricity generation. Due to their efficient, safe, and modular design, SMRs present a real solution for remote energy needs which are currently provided by combustion of oil and gas. 

SMR development in Ontario and Canada will create well-paying jobs. Design, manufacturing, servicing, and management of SMRs (along with the associated supply chain) represents a huge potential future industry that Ontario’s scientific, manufacturing and engineering communities are ideally positioned to create, as well as export to other markets. The estimated total global export potential of SMRs is approximately $150 billion per year for 2030 to 2040.

There are still some challenges to address with SMRs. The World Nuclear Association has identified licensing costs and waste management concerns as issues to overcome for favourable economics of this technology. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has also noted that more research is required before licensing this technology as reliable and safe.

OSPE is glad that the government is moving forward with a dedicated funding program to support proponent in SMRs. However, OSPE also calls on the Government of Canada to continue developing a long-term comprehensive energy strategy in partnership with other provinces, through its SMR Action Plan that addresses the following issues:

  1. The limited supply of economically recoverable Uranium 235 needed to power SMRs.
  2. Security and safety concerns.
  3. Concerns regarding the disposal of long-lived used fuel and other nuclear waste.
  4. Lack of public knowledge regarding SMRs.
  5. The need for Indigenous engagement in advance of specific project proposals.
  6. The unique challenges faced by northern communities due to access and remoteness.

Recommendation 83: Create a National Intellectual Property Strategy and help Canadian start-ups navigate complex intellectual property management, assisting with patent filings, invention disclosures, fundraising, partnering and investment.

OSPE has been advocating for the creation of a dedicated fund to support Ontario businesses in Research and Development (R&D) activities with a strong focus on local commercialization, including development and protection of Intellectual Property (IP) for Ontario and Canada’s benefit.

Recommendation 106: Develop the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan to improve Canadian resilience and develop an export strategy that helps Canada feed into the recovery packages of other nations, especially as they pursue mineral-intensive green infrastructure and energy projects.

OSPE understands the need to invest in Ontario’s mining Infrastructure, including the Ring of Fire.

 Mining is the backbone of the Canadian economy, especially due to the resources found in Ontario. The materials and products delivered help Ontarians and Canadians stay safe, meet basic needs, and sustain northern communities. This industry produces around $10 billion in revenues for Ontario per year and employs over 75,000 Ontarians. Mining is also the largest private sector employer of Indigenous Ontarians.

Ontario is the largest producer in Canada of gold, platinum group metals and nickel, and the second largest producer of copper. The province is also a major producer of salt and structural materials. Mining produces key metals for the development of high-tech products, batteries, as well as medical devices, including ventilators and diagnostic COVID-19 test kits.

The Ring of Fire region of northern Ontario is an immense and untapped economic opportunity. Research done by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce suggests that in the first 30 years of its development, this region could generate more than $25 billion in economic activity across several different sectors in Ontario, including mining, financial services, retail trade, manufacturing, and utilities.

The development of this region will also provide enormous long-term benefits to northern communities through increased economic activity and job creation. To realize the full economic potential of the Ring of Fire, the government must prioritize key investments in core infrastructure, as well as ways to address the needs of the labour market and Indigenous communities.

The engineering community is happy to know that the Government of Canada’s Finance Committee recommends the need to develop the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan (CMMP). OSPE calls on the federal government to do more and:

  1. Work with the Provincial government to ensure that the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan (CMMP) achieves all its goals under each of its six strategic directions.
  2. Ensure resource development is sustainable, by establishing guidelines and frameworks that ensure corporations respect economic, environmental, and social needs of the communities.
  3. Ensure Indigenous peoples are full partners in the development of the Ring of Fire, where consultations with Indigenous communities begin at the planning stage and continue throughout the mining exploration stages.
  4. Develop a Youth Training Program, in partnership with OSPE, to teach Indigenous youth the engineering expertise and skills that will allow them to co-develop the different mining sites in ways that respect and integrate indigenous ways of knowing while serving the needs of the people of Canada.

Recommendation 110: Develop industrial strategies to expand critical domestic manufacturing capacity and supply chain infrastructure for Canadian manufacturing, auto, aerospace, shipbuilding, pharmaceuticals and PPE production.

Since COVID-19 hit our communities, OSPE has been advocating for the support of local manufacturing innovation and production.

Manufacturing is a cornerstone of our modern economy. Accounting for approximately $174 billion of our GDP, manufacturing represents more than 10% of Canada’s total GDP. As Canada’s manufacturing engine, it is imperative that both provincial and federal orders of government work together to support this sector. To date, the Government of Ontario has launched a procurement tool that will remove barriers and leverage Ontario’s manufacturing capacity in the fight against COVID-19.

The federal and provincial governments should refocus investment in “Made-In Canada” solutions and products. This could be achieved by working across orders of government to identify nationally strategic products and services and establish a minimum level of domestic production of these. Items such as medical supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), food, energy, and other essentials should be included.

The uptake of technology and digitization will improve the sectors ability to be able to switch production to respond to consumer demand more quickly, not only in times of crisis but also in response to market shifts. For economic recovery it is critical that engineering expertise be deployed to ensure the safety and optimization of innovative solutions within industrial spaces. The federal government should work with the Ontario government to provide additional advanced manufacturing (AM) focused programs with potential financial incentives for Canadian companies to enhance their competitiveness both domestically and internationally. Supporting businesses in improving current manufacturing processes and methods, developing, and implementing digital technologies and focusing on developing more sustainable and energy-efficient products, will help create resiliency in this sector and improve Canada’s export potential.

OSPE believes that the development of industrial strategies to expand domestic manufacturing capacity is a great first step to ensure good paying jobs in these vital industrial remain in Canada.

Recommendation 136: Continue to make the investments necessary to support other levels of government and industry to grow demand for clean electricity by: expanding electrification of public transit and light-duty vehicles; planning for transmission grid expansion to displace coal and diesel; and demonstrating innovative green hydrogen production and utilization projects.

OSPE knows that restoring our economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic should keep in mind our existing environmental and climate change concerns.

Widespread use of local and regional district energy systems has been a fundamental and primary contributor to low-carbon communities in countries like Denmark and Finland. Toronto’s TOCore Downtown Energy Strategy also concludes that district energy systems are fundamental to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings at a lower cost compared to individual buildings.

Specifically, DER technologies leverage economies of scale to produce economic, environmental and reliability benefits to the local economy. They also offer consumers the potential for lower-cost, higher-service reliability, high-power quality, increased energy efficiency, energy independence, and energy security to mitigate future effects of climate change.

Engineers believe that the federal government should encourage the adoption of locally owned energy sources and storage systems that increase local jobs and energy costs throughout the entire province. Although this will require investment in distribution system upgrades, the upgrades will allow for a more optimal use of existing assets and, if designed correctly, can result in the elimination or deferral of other system costs. Furthermore, upgrading Canada’s energy infrastructure represents an ideal opportunity to address the needs of current and future generations, while creating employment opportunities for engineers and energy innovators.

The government should also support technological innovation that reduces energy use, through grants and incentive programs for innovators. These incentives should reward technologies that are able to provide energy efficient solutions that will make Ontario’s and Canada’s infrastructure and energy sources more resilient to intensified weather patterns.

OSPE CEO, Sandro Perruzza, highlighted the fact that “we are happy that FINA’s report includes recommendations that recognize the importance of investing in sustainable infrastructure, talent development and retention, and measures that foster innovation. These are policies that will create thousands of jobs for engineers.”

OSPE will continue to work with the federal government and advocate on issues that impact the engineering profession ahead of the 2021 federal budget. The Government of Canada will release its budget in late March/ early April. Stay tuned for our analysis of this upcoming budget and our assessment of how it will impact the engineering community.

To read our full federal pre-budget submission click here.

If you are an OSPE member with expertise in these areas, let us know by emailing advocacy@ospe.on.ca, or visit the members-only ENGage Forum to provide your comments.

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