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Rodrigue Gilbert assumes CCA’s top job with a focus on procurement reform

Don Wall
Rodrigue Gilbert assumes CCA’s top job with a focus on procurement reform
VAN BUREN X — In May 2022 Rodrigue Gilbert (far right) and then CCA president Mary Van Buren met with construction stakeholders to discuss fair procurement and workforce issues among others.

New president Rodrigue Gilbert says he is taking on the top job at the association ready, willing and able to handle the important job of working closely with the federal government to secure progress on the CCA’s top priority issues.

Gilbert, appointed to the position in January, formally took over May 1, replacing Mary Van Buren, who stepped aside after six years as president to pursue other goals.

That first week he was in his home province of Quebec and met with members of ACQ, Quebec’s construction association. On May 9 Gilbert was in Meech Lake talking to federal officials about the need for immigration reform.

“I’ve been with the CCA for more than six years now,” said Gilbert. “I know the players. I learned about the industry a lot. I have spent a lot of time working on contracts, on procurement, working with local construction associations, having worked with different sectors. I was lucky enough to travel everywhere in Canada. I have a network I could go to in every province.

“So absolutely, advocacy will remain one of our priorities.”

Gilbert came to the CCA from Sussex Strategy Group, where he was senior associate. Prior to that, he ran his own government relations firm. He spent 10 years working in the Jean Chretien government and held senior positions in various federal departments advising ministers.

With the CCA, he played a lead role consulting with the federal government during the pandemic and he was active in modernizing and digitizing the CCDC contract system and the adoption of the SignaSur platform.

“I think one of our biggest wins at CCA, and I’m really proud of that, was our involvement with the federal government during COVID,” said Gilbert. “Not that many people know that, but I was talking to the government basically every morning during COVID making sure everything was in order, that everything was going well.”

As a result, he said, construction was one of the few industries that kept working for the most part, and that was a “big win” for the CCA.


A team player

Asked what his strongest trait is, Gilbert said it’s team play, and gave credit to his predecessor for building and taking advantage of the talent on the CCA staff and throughout the broad network of member organizations.

“I think people would say that I’m a team player,” said Gilbert, who says he was christened Rodrigue because his father was a fan of NHL standout Rod Gilbert. “I always say I’ve been raised in the hockey world, where team is important. You rely on your teammates.”

But advocacy does not always produce results. The CCA has long lobbied for a federal commitment to long-term infrastructure funding, but Gilbert acknowledged the April budget delivered by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland fell short.

Instead, housing was the top priority with the Justin Trudeau government addressing broader infrastructure mainly through a new $6-billion Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund to accelerate the construction of infrastructure supporting new housing.

“I know some people were disappointed with the budget. We were too,” said Gilbert. “We were expecting more.”

But the Housing Infrastructure Fund is a sign the federal government understands the issue, he suggests.

“I think that’s just the first step of many,” Gilbert said. “I strongly believe that the feds will chip in. Because we need it. We talked to them often about that. So, we’re pretty optimistic about the future.”


Three priorities

The top three priorities for Gilbert and the CCA as he begins his tenure are procurement modernization, workforce and, again, long-term infrastructure, he said.

Procurement reform is the key to advancing on multiple fronts including sustainability and supporting modern technology, Gilbert said.

If the federal government were to fully embrace qualifications-based bidding, he said, rather than seeking the low-cost bidder, with a team-based approach to project management, the sector would be able to reap the benefits of innovation and start to use different materials and different methodology such as modular construction.

Follow the author on X/Twitter @DonWall_DCN.


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