By Simon Blake
The Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH) held its 85th Annual Business Conference in Ottawa June 25-27 with 286 delegates and companions attending – including 44 new delegates.
The effect of U.S. President Donald Trump’s protectionist ambitions on Canadian business was top-of-mind for several speakers and many delegates.
“I had hoped things would be a bit clearer or calmer by now. Silly me; (Trump) thrives in a period of chaos,” remarked David Burney, former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. He was involved in the original free trade negotiations as well as NAFTA.
“Trump will be erratic, but he’s a deal maker,” noted John Baird, former foreign affairs minister in the Stephen Harper government. While renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a priority, “he will be looking for a face saving agreement (with Canada),” he added.
He praised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his low-key approach. “It loathes me to say that Trudeau has handled the file with great skill and care. In the first six months of (the Trump) administration, I think we are off to a very good start.”
The danger, noted Burney, is that NAFTA negotiations may drag on indefinitely until one partner quits. He added that no deal is better than a bad deal. “Canada needs to know above all when and how to say no.” In Canada’s favour, about nine million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Canada, he added.
Dealing with climate change
Baird also noted that the Liberal climate change agenda may put Canada at an economic disadvantage. “They are true believers; it’s religion to them. They will go ahead with their agenda despite the U-turn in Washington, which will be a huge challenge for Canadian business.”
Climate change is real, he added, but “the biggest challenge is that we’re not solving the problem” because Canada and other Western nations can’t do it alone. “It’s like we’re bailing out the rowboat, but China and India are using fire hoses to fill it up.”
CIPH president Ralph Suppa noted that while CIPH generally supports the climate change objectives of federal and provincial governments, the organization’s focus is on providing “practical solutions” that work for both industry and government.
Burney praised CIPH for the work it is doing to harmonize codes and standards between Canada and the U.S. and between provinces. “If we could have interprovincial free trade, wouldn’t that be a bonanza,” he added.
Working with others
On many of these issues, CIPH works closely with other associations. Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC) president Del Pawliuk (R.F. Contracting, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) pointed to the progress on prompt payment, the Day on the Hill where every year CIPH and MCAC members and staff meet with federal politicians in Ottawa, World Plumbing Day and other joint activities.
“The accomplishments that we achieve together could not have been done if we did not have such a strong partnership,” he added.
Rick Ellul (Belimo Air Controls, Mississauga, Ont.), chairman of the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI), agreed. He noted that the two organizations are “dealing with a lengthy list of environmental issues” with the added challenge of a patchwork of different regulations between municipalities, provinces and the federal government.
Over the past 15 months, a joint CIPH/HRAI task team has worked to establish closer relations between staff, develop a process to meet and discuss issues and to assign a lead organization for each issue.
Senator and former mechanical contractor – his sons now run Landmark Mechanical, Landmark, Man. – Don Plett told urged the audience to keep the pressure on their federal politicians to get prompt payment legislation passed. While it has all-party support, the federal cabinet may be reluctant to move it along, he said.
With many of today’s industry leaders looking at retirement over the next ten years, a presentation on succession planning by Roger Greenberg of The Minto Group was well received. The Ottawa based real estate company is one of the largest homebuilders in North America and is also heavily involved in the rental market.
Founded in 1955, the company was run by his father, who died suddenly in the 80s and his uncle, who died of cancer in 1991.
“We did absolutely zero planning. We were afraid to ask…. At 35, my main qualification for becoming president of Minto was my last name,” said Greenberg.
Between his siblings and cousins, there were now eight shareholders. They put rules in place that, among other things, ensured that they could only sell within the family. They brought in outside expertise with a board of directors, four of seven of whom are independent. They separated day-to-day operation from ownership – creating a new organization to run family business.
“Make sure you recruit the strongest people you can and let them do what you hired them to do,” he advised. “Make sure they share your values, but they are not going to do everything the way you would.” Today, for the first time, a CEO who is not a family member runs the company.
There were numerous other activities in addition to the speakers – the Ed Hardison Memorial Golf Tournament, a tour of former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s summer retreat in the Gatineau Hills, and several tours of the Parliament Buildings.
New board elected
Joe Senese, vice president, operations, Groupe Deschénes Inc., Montreal, was elected chairman for 2017-18. He noted that one of the challenges and one of his priorities will be to continue attracting talented young people to the industry.
“As all of us have heard, plumbing and heating may not be the sexiest industry around, but it is fundamental to the health and well-being of Canadians.”
This year’s conference chairman, Allen Taylor, (Taylor Pipe Supports, Burlington, Ont.), was elected first vice-chairman. Second vice chairmen are Andrew Dyck (Barclay Sales Ltd., Port Coquitlam, B.C.) and Gail Kaufman (Wolseley Canada, Burlington, Ont.). Bill Palamar moves into the past chair and treasurer’s role.
Bill Hooper (Uponor, Mississauga, Ont.), was elected chairman of the Manufacturers’ Division and Matt Robinson (B.A. Robinson, Winnipeg) was elected chairman of the Wholesalers’ Division.
The high attendance at the conference illustrates the strong support that CIPH continues to have from its members. Palamar noted that it takes a lot of work – by staff and volunteers – at the national and regional levels to keep the organization vibrant. “We wouldn’t be able to achieve what we have achieved without all those volunteers on a national scale… I see nothing but blue skies ahead for this organization.”
The next CIPH Annual Business Conference will take place June 17-19, 2018 at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler in Whistler, B.C. For more information, please visit www.ciph.com.