Location! Location!

The locations of my first and last CCA annual conventions, now called conferences, were “unconventional”. In 1947 the convention was in Niagara Falls and in 1977 in Jamaica. Previously, the association’s annual general meetings (AGM) were normally held in a major Canadian city.

Wartime restrictions against unnecessary travel still applied during the 1947 AGM and it was also the last one in the modern era to have no female delegates. The program included a trip to Buffalo, New York, for a dinner and entertainment at its Town Casino. There were no border-crossing Customs or immigration checks – the busloads of delegates were just waived across the border, both ways.

It was CCA policy to hold its monthly Management Committee meetings in various regions across Canada to facilitate member attendance. The two held in early November and early December were traditionally held in the Seigniory Club (now the Fairmont Chateau Montebello) in a “retreat” location, away from distractions. The focus was the consideration of draft resolutions to be debated at the AGM. These were popular 3-day meetings and attracted the heads of not only major construction firms but also those of manufacturers and suppliers of materials such as steel, cement and petroleum products. The proximity near to Ottawa also made it convenient to invite ten or so deputy ministers and their wives to the concluding Saturday dinner and dance.

In time the June or September meetings were held in resort hotels just prior to or after their regular season. Examples included Banff, Jasper, the Muskokas, Ste. Adele, St. Andrews and Yarmouth. These developed into semi-conventions called Annual Summer Meetings and often were family affairs.

The business agendas were the primary purpose of the general meetings. The addition of a social program – dinner dances, entertainments, a Ladies’ Program and sight-seeing trips – transformed them into “conventions”.

The decision to convene in Jamaica was only arrived at after a heated debate. The proposal was made by President Henry de Puyjalon who had for many years enjoyed a family winter vacation in the Caribbean. The CCA conventions had always been held in late January or early February when construction activity in most parts of the country was at a low level and contractors were freer to take time off. The prospect of convening in a warm-weather environment rather than in frigid conditions appealed to some. However, the proposal was strongly opposed by others on the grounds that the industry’s national body should only convene in Canada. Moreover, Canadians were tough and well able to withstand cold weather in conventions held in cities like Edmonton, Winnipeg or Quebec City. It became a matter of national pride of identity!

It was finally agreed to hold the AGM in Jamaica, provided that the program featured Canadian construction opportunities in the Caribbean and Latin America. Invitations were accordingly extended to the Export Development Corporation and to the Canadian Trade Commissioners in the surrounding countries to act as guest speakers. The afternoons were also devoted to individual interviews between these officials and delegates. Many took advantage of this opportunity and, indeed, a number of overseas construction contracts materialized from this initiative.

The Jamaican experiment was highly successful and laid the groundwork for the current CCA policy of stipulating that a minimum of one AGM location every 5 years must be within Canada. This leaves it open to hold a greater number in Canada but also to convene elsewhere in a warmer location. The summer meetings were discontinued.

CCA convention/conference locations

1973 – Saskatoon 2014 – Panama
1974 – Quebec 2015 – San Antonio
1975 – Ottawa 2016 – New Orleans
1976 – Winnipeg 2017 – Riviera Maya, Mexico
1977 – Jamaica 2018 – Banff