Every job has its unique satisfactions, but I suppose the job of a construction worker is a good one to illustrate the importance of work and vocation to our wellbeing.
My father was a construction labourer during my early youth, and I remember taking the scenic routes to a destination so that we could observe the progress being made on a construction project that he had contributed to. I remember welling with pride—my dad helped build that!—and though my father wasn't the talkative sort, I know he also felt a particular sense of accomplishment that wasn't measured by the hours of labour or the paycheque received.
Tomorrow Cardus will host a hundred or so construction executives, labour leaders, government officials, and other policy wonks, and we'll spend a day discussing the significant changes taking place in Canada's construction economy. And yes, we'll talk about capital investments, training programs, and government policies. But one part that really interests me is the needed refocusing of Canada's construction workforce—the contributions of those Canadians who make construction their vocation.
Measuring an individual worker's part of a multi-billion dollar Liquid National Gas Plant, hydroelectric plant, or pipeline is difficult given the mind-boggling scope of some of these projects. And yet, on enormous or tiny projects, the principles remain the same: employment structures must provide opportunity for workers to make meaningful contributions, must allow workers to use their gifts and talents as craftspeople, and must reward them with the satisfaction of having contributed to something useful to society. Projects ordered this way are projects most likely to succeed.
Reflecting on the contributions of regular construction workers—of which, by the way, there is a major shortage—I am reminded of the original calling given to Adam in Eden's garden, still relevant for our economic flourishing today.
The modern construction worker ought to be thought of as part of the knowledge economy, operating the astoundingly complex machinery and construction technology on today's jobsites. At our meeting tomorrow we will talk about tens of thousands of these workers. We'll also talk of investments requiring billions, and of complex systems that are required to see Canada's new industrial revolution—the construction of energy infrastructure—realized. But I hope we don't lose in our conversations the contribution of ordinary workers like my dad, who helped build his community one spike at a time. The buildings he helped build were useful to others and the building of them was measured in economic statistics, but for him and his immigrant household, the lasting measurement was one of dignity. May our projects—even our revolutions—never grow too outsized for the men and women who build them.