Come November each year, scores of delegates from the global infrastructure industry congregate in Toronto at the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships’ national conference on P3s. Now in its 26th year, the conference reflected a crucial time for P3s in Canada as ministerial changes have taken place both at the federal level and in the provinces.
But enthusiasm remains high. On one hand where countries like the UK have become increasingly wary of the P3 model, Canada remains positive about the model and its benefits.
Canadian Minister for Infrastructure, Francois-Philippe Champagne, who took office just a few months back, said the country's main priorities were delivering the “big projects” like Champlain Bridge and Gordie Howe. He said the country “believes in the model”.
Meanwhile, Pierre Lavallée, president and CEO of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, stressed that the institution will play a crucial role in Canadian infrastructure development and investment and will invest at all levels of a project’s capital structure.
Innovative technologies were a big discussion point at the conference. The industry discussed how technology can aid in improving development and maintenance of projects, as well as the emergence of autonomous and driverless vehicles. Experts increasingly saw this as the future of urban cities, just like horses were replaced by automobiles a few decades back, as one pointed out.
The Canadian P3 landscape is a cooperation among many. This was evident when Joseph S. Mancinelli, international vice president and regional manager for central and eastern Canada at the Labourers’ International Union of North America, addressed the audience and said how the union was extremely supportive and enthusiastic about Canada’s P3 pipeline. He added that the union’s pension reserve is invested in the country’s infrastructure each year and will continue to do so.
Representatives from countries around the globe also presented their P3 plans, signaling that they are open for business. The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, elected in 2017, spoke about the island’s recovery and it being open for business again. He said the country boasts a strong P3 law and large projects pipeline. He also spoke of his commitment to fixing the island’s chronic problems.
That said, locally, some Canadian provinces such as Ontario and British Columbia were less certain of their future projects pipeline. Ehren Cory, president and CEO of Infrastructure Ontario said that while the project pipeline is a very important element of their plan and helps the industry in forming teams ahead of project launch, the province is currently going through a review of it and giving capital projects a careful look.
The pipeline is expected to follow in a couple months, and the positive news is that the new Ontario government seems determined to build on the P3 model, not scrap it. The province’s infrastructure minister Monte McNaughton was also at the event and enthusiastic about using P3s, but wants to review the model to make it better. It also offers the new government a chance to break with the ‘alternative financing and procurement (AFP) model pioneered by the old Liberal government and replace it with a modified P3 version.
Cory also highlighted the various sectors the province is excited about, with a number of projects in the transportation and healthcare sectors. He also said that the broadband sector remains a government priority.
It therefore appears that the CCPPP conference will have plenty more years to run, as the model continues to cement itself not only in Canada, but across the Americas.