On November 28th, the Government of Ontario released the province’s Long-Term Infrastructure Plan (LTIP) entitled Building Better Lives: Ontario’s Long-Term Infrastructure Plan 2017. The plan sets forth a vision for Ontario infrastructure planning and investment and is a key interim step in meeting the requirements of the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015 (IJPA).
The LTIP outlines a vision for how Ontario’s infrastructure must be evidence-based and should be resilient to the impacts of a changing climate and disruptive technologies, seamlessly interconnected and supportive of economic growth for the whole province. While the plan is a welcomed announcement in ensuring Ontario’s infrastructure meets the needs of its rapidly changing economy, the OCC encourages the government to continually update and monitor the plan to identify what is—and is not—working well.
Below is a high-level synopsis of the plan, including the OCC’s analysis and comparison to the OCC’s Long-Term Infrastructure Plan Submission, Building Better.
The Government of Ontario will:
Implement a broadband strategy outlining a vision for broadband connectivity across the province;
Integrate climate change considerations into infrastructure planning to ensure environmental sustainability;
Evaluate AFP projects against an evaluation framework to track the success of the delivery model; and
Commit to ensure evidence-based decision making as it works on best practices in infrastructure planning and prioritization.
Key initiatives identified in Building Better Lives: Ontario’s Long-Term Infrastructure Plan 2017
Strengthening Evidence-Based Decision Making
The government is undertaking extensive research to understand best practices in infrastructure planning and prioritization, and will apply these findings through ongoing work to improve consistency in business cases. This is to ensure the clear identification to decision-makers of the critical investments that are necessary to address health and safety; deliver critical services; address vulnerabilities to climate impacts; or to deliver on government mandate commitments or time-limited opportunities.
As government practices continue to improve, there will be clear prioritization criteria to assess the economic, social and environmental impacts of these investments. There will also be business case improvements to ensure that decision-makers have the evidence they need to make informed decisions. This evidence will include the current provincial infrastructure capacity, the gaps between what Ontario has and what Ontario needs, and a clear strategy on how the government will meet those needs.
In Building Better, the OCC encouraged the Government of Ontario to ensure that future infrastructure planning and spending commitments are planned methodically, fully, and in a transparent fashion. Infrastructure investments should be targeted based on sound criteria, including return on investments and evidence that the investments will reduce or eliminate existing barriers to service. The OCC is pleased to see that evidence-based decision making will be a key pillar of the LTIP.
Climate Change Adaptation
Ontario-led efforts to increase resilience will be achieved in a variety of ways, including through climate change-related policies in infrastructure asset plans, investment directives and decisions, and land–use planning direction such as the Provincial Policy Statement (2014) and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2017).
The Province is also establishing a new organization that will provide municipalities, Indigenous communities, and businesses with up-to-date and critical information and data, as well as practical services to build resilience and help keep Ontarians safe. This information will assist government in making evidence-based investment decisions to build resilient infrastructure across Ontario.
In Building Better, the OCC recommended the LTIP focus on building infrastructure that is resilient and adaptable to climate change. We noted that as part of this climate change should be incorporated into asset management planning. Additionally, we recommended resiliency and adaptability be considered within procurement criteria. This could include having specific sections of a tender devoted to how a proponent is addressing the impacts of climate change on the asset being built, closely aligning with the LTIP’s outlined resilient infrastructure components.
Supporting Modern Service Delivery – Broadband in Ontario
The OCC has consistently advocated for trade-enabling infrastructure, including both traditional and digital infrastructure such as high-speed broadband internet. As part of this, the OCC has continually supported recommendations for the development of a robust investment strategy in the province, which identifies broadband as an infrastructure investment and does not dissuade private sector investment. A broadband strategy will help the Government achieve an evidence-based approach to broadband infrastructure development.
The OCC has also encouraged the building of partnerships across all levels of government to better leverage funding and respond to local needs. The private sector has long driven investment in broadband infrastructure and the OCC has recommended the Province commits to an intergovernmental funding model that will incentivize and leverage investments in a way that expedites the closing of the digital divide. The OCC would be welcomed to participate in ongoing dialogue with the Government of Ontario as it develops the provincial broadband strategy.
Improved AFP Evaluation and Analysis
(a) deliver projects on-budget, on-time and on-specification;
(b) ensure proper risk transfer to the private sector was achieved at final completion; and
(c) ensure timely procurement.
The government will start by evaluating a selection of completed AFPs and traditionally delivered projects of a similar size to assess the performance of each model against these criteria. Over time, this framework will provide a stronger evidence base for the AFP delivery model which will help decision-makers choose the right delivery model for future projects.
Additionally, as part of its AFP work, the Government of Ontario is committing to support municipalities to successfully deliver key infrastructure projects. For example, it is exploring how it can encourage and support municipalities in leveraging the AFP delivery model more frequently to achieve their infrastructure priorities, and what support and advice Infrastructure Ontario can potentially provide to municipalities.
In Building Better, the OCC recommended the Government of Ontario should work to develop comprehensive principles and elements from successfully procured projects that were delivered using alternative financing and procurement methods which can then be applied as best practices to smaller scale projects.
The OCC has been advocating for building infrastructure that sets Ontario’s foundation for long-term, sustainable economic growth and prosperity, cumulating in our Building Better report. We are encouraged to see that the 2017 LTIP delivers broad alignment with the OCC’s recommendations.
The OCC was pleased to see a strong emphasis on evidence-based decision making as well as a focus on building resilient and adaptable infrastructure. We also applaud the government’s commitment to expanding broadband infrastructure and improving connectivity in communities across the province by working towards a broadband strategy.
The OCC will continue to work collaboratively with the Government of Ontario as it works to execute its vision outlined in the LTIP.
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