December 2014

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44 | www.cedmag.com | Construction Equipment Distribution | December 2014 A Closer Look In the shadows of Parliament Hill, the equipment industry and allied organiza- tions convened in late October for AED's first public policy conference. A powerful dimension of the economy, equipment companies are facing severe workforce shortages. BY TOM VAN DUSEN 'Informative and Important' – 2WWDZD%ULHÀQJ Dives into Hot Issues for Canadian Distributors The reviews are in for the first AED public policy conference in Canada – The Ottawa Briefing –and they're unanimous: the meeting was a hit with everyone in atten- dance. Featuring a variety of prominent guest presenters, including Chris Alexander, Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister, the briefing explored the equipment distribution industry's top priorities: skilled labor shortage, infrastructure project delays, and tax irritants. "They're powerful themes led by the federal government… and the government will have to be pushed on them," said participant and presenter Wally Butler, CFO of Mazergroup of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the largest New Holland dealership group in Canada. And the hottest topic of the Oct. 30 meeting was the shrinking workforce and that's what occupied most of the briefing's time and attention. Chartered accountant Butler said its "paramount" that the Canadian immigration system be streamlined to meet the need for skilled workers. Meanwhile, he said, some Western Canadian equipment companies are trying to make the industry more attractive to young local workers and are offering incentives such as scholarships to help generate interest. In the agricultural sector, he continued, most operations are smaller and rural based. The challenge is not simply to acquire qualified workers but to keep them in the face of manpower competition from the mining and energy sectors. Vermeer Canada's Craig Drury mentioned the need to educate young people on the sophistication of the heavy equipment industry, that becoming involved in the sector is as "sexy" as becoming a doctor or a lawyer. Participants were intrigued by Canada's latest approach to boosting the skilled labor pool as outlined by Minister Alexander, an engaging former diplomat once based in Russia and Afghanistan, who opened the meeting with a presentation on his government's efforts to expand the country's skilled workforce. Shortage of labor is critical, and as Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs for the Canadian Construction Association Bill Ferreira pointed out, his sector alone will require more than 300,000 new workers by 2022. Ferreira, who is former director of Government Relations with the Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, detailed a federal govern- ment plan that is designed to shorten the online application approval time for prospective immigrants.

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