The federal government’s Economic Action Plan in the 2009 budget will result in investments of more than $12 billion in new construction and renewal of existing infrastructure projects across Canada. The objective is to create new jobs, generate significant economic spin-offs and contribute to this country’s long-term economic prosperity.
Included in the plan is approximately $1 billion in federal infrastructure investments. Accounting for approximately five percent of public infrastructures in Canada, many of these federal physical assets are in need of rehabilitation and/or repair: bridges, highways, railways, harbours, border crossings, office buildings and laboratories.
It begs the question: Are federal real property professionals ready to respond to this funding infusion?
For years, property professionals have streamlined their focus on finding innovative solutions to extend the economic and useful life of these eroding infrastructures; maintaining their functionality with limited capital and operating funds while meeting today’s demands of scientific and technological advancements as well as the government’s objective for a more sustainable environment. In addition, real property managers have had the challenge of ensuring the integration and alignment of physical assets with their respective departmental program priorities.
So, do federal real property managers have the necessary capacity and expertise to meet the rigorous demands of the federal government’s objectives? It will definitely require a shift in focus to capacity building in the areas of strategic and investment planning, project management, risk and performance management to meet current priorities.
To address these concerns, the Treasury Board Secretariat created the Procurement, Materiel Management and Real Property (PMMRP) Community Management Office. Its mandate is to provide strategic direction and central leadership for the collaborative development and implementation of strategies, programs and initiatives to support capacity building, community development and the professional recognition of the federal government’s PMMRP.
With more than 5,000 real property functional specialists involved in the life-cycle management of the government’s physical assets, the Community Management Office undertook a community capacity building initiative in the fall of 2008 to understand the nature and extent of issues confronting the federal real property community and identify gaps in order to establish a five year capacity building strategy.
The objective is to encourage more senior level engagement necessary to increase visibility for the community and to align direction with public service renewal and other government-wide priorities. This approach to governance will ensure access to the appropriate levels of authority for decision-making, development and implementation of capacity building strategies and initiatives to support the delivery of government programs and services.
A key component of the enabling infrastructure for capacity building is the development of functional competencies which will be formally included in the Canada General Standards Board Competencies of the Federal Government Procurement, Materiel Management and Real Property Community. The real property functional competencies describe the required knowledge, experience and training essential for various levels of proficiency for each phase of lifecycle asset management. These prescribed competencies will enable federal departments and agencies to maintain a succession and retention plan for their respective real property management organizations and ensure that they have the capacity and expertise to respond to government priorities.
The Real Property Institute of Canada is currently collaborating with the TBS Community Management Office to ensure that training of these functional competencies is made available to all real property professionals across the country. Incorporated in 1998, RPIC is responsible for promoting professionalism and effectiveness of the disciplines of real property management within the federal public sector.
To further support TBS, RPIC has instituted a Federal Real Property Week which runs concurrently with its national November workshop in Ottawa. This year’s event will be held November 16-20. The objective is to highlight the important role that the federal infrastructures play in value creation, and the potential for these assets to support the Government of Canada in leading the country to a stronger economic and fiscal position. RPIC is in a unique situation to assist with this role through different fora for information exchange, and by striving for continuous improvement through professional development opportunities.
As part of its commitment to foster a high professional standard of real property management within the federal public sector, RPIC names an annual Assistant Deputy Minister Champion to assist with fulfilling this mandate. Gordon McIvor of Canada Lands Company is serving as RPIC’s ADM Champion for 2009, following last year’s champion, John Mc Bain of Public Works and Government Services Canada – collectively, they form part of the RPIC ADM Circle of Champions. Their role is to highlight the importance of federal real property to senior government officials and promote the need to better integrate and align the management of physical assets with the government’s plans