Legislation stalled, but Canadian Government signs damage prevention MoU


The Canadian Government, through Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), has signed a MoU with the Canadian Common Ground Alliance (CCGA) to improve the protection of underground infrastructure located on federal lands.

Meanwhile, legislation to establish a mandatory regime similar to Dial Before You Dig appears to be stalled for almost a year.

“There has been a considerable amount of work taking place since May 2017 when bill S229, the Underground Infrastructure Safety Enhancement Act, was adopted in the Canadian Senate”, says Mike Sullivan, Executive Director of the CCGA. “The bill and the CCGA’s strategic awareness campaign brought S229, and damage prevention in general, to the federal government’s attention. Ultimately, it was PSPC that reached out to the CCGA and initiated discussions culminating with the MoU.”

Under the MoU PSPC and CCGA will launch a pilot project to improve and coordinate current notification processes for work on federal lands.

PSPC says this will strengthen existing processes and prevent damage to underground infrastructure, ensure safety for the public and workers, and improve the safety of federally regulated underground infrastructure.

PSPC will also work with the CCGA and other government departments and agencies to facilitate a government-wide approach to underground infrastructure protection.

Steven MacKinnon, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, signed the MoU on behalf of Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement. He said the Government was proud to work with the CCGA “to reinforce measures that will further ensure the safety of construction workers and Canadians while protecting the federal underground infrastructure.”

“The pilot announced a few weeks, and the MoU with PSPC, allows the CCGA to remain actively and meaningfully engaged on this initiative at the federal level” added Sullivan. “Our objective to ensure federally regulated underground infrastructure, and underground infrastructure on federal lands, is registered with a Notification Centre is still paramount – and legislation is only one way to achieve that.”

However, as we reported last year, the Government is stalling on legislation that would mandate a regime similar to Dial Before You Dig, or OneCall.

The Underground Infrastructure Safety Enhancement Act was introduced into Parliament in 2015 and had its third reading in September 2017 but there has been no progress since.

The legislation would require: federally regulated underground infrastructure or owners of infrastructure located on federal land to register with a notification centre; members of the public to request a locate from a notification centre prior to digging; underground infrastructure owners to respond to a locate request by either locating and marking their underground infrastructure, or providing accurate information of the location of the underground infrastructure.

In a bid to secure passage of the legislation the CCGA has set up a web page, I Can Dig Safe, from which citizens can send a letter to their representative in the Federal Parliament to urge passage of the legislation.

CCGA says damage to underground infrastructure is costing Canadians at least $1 billion every year, and that damage to underground infrastructure is avoided 99 percent of the time whenever a locate request is placed with a one-call notification centre.

It also says: “Provincial damage prevention legislation in Ontario has reduced damages to underground infrastructure in that province by 60 percent.”

The current status of the legislation can be found here.

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