President & CEO, Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships
The CCPPP sat down with Lisa Mitchell, President and CEO of CCPPP, to discuss how the infrastructure sector is changing in Canada and how the public-private partnerships (P3) model continues to evolve to meet those challenges.
This year has proven to be both challenging and exciting for Canada’s infrastructure sector. Governments have committed billions in historic investments to build highways, schools, hospitals, and bridges, while the after-effects of the pandemic and global political turmoil have thrown wrenches into successfully getting projects to the finish line on time and within budget.
This fall, the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships (CCPPP) will mark the 30th anniversary of its annual conference. We sat down with Lisa Mitchell, President and CEO of CCPPP, to discuss how the infrastructure sector is changing in Canada and how the public-private partnerships (P3) model continues to evolve to meet those challenges.
Canada has a long history of P3s, but the market seems to be changing with new models, such as Alliance and Progressive P3s. Why is this happening now, and what does this mean for the future?
In the 1990s, governments across Canada turned toward P3s in response to challenges in delivering large and complex projects and partnering with the private sector to foster greater collaboration, innovation, and the best value for taxpayers.
We’ve had a great deal of success — 300 projects and counting — but we’ve also had some projects experience substantial challenges. With every generation of P3s, the industry in Canada has adapted to improve how projects are delivered. What we’re witnessing now with these newer models is a direct result of the challenges we’ve seen in the market in recent years.
The fundamentals of the P3 model remain sound, but we may need to adjust our approach in certain circumstances. There remains tremendous merit in a whole-of-life-cycle approach where risk is transferred to the party best able to manage it and in leveraging private capital.
The industry needs to return to the table to deepen our collective understanding of what works and what hasn’t and find solutions to advance more P3s — where they make sense. We need to put the partnerships back in P3s.
The industry needs to come back to the table to deepen our collective understanding of what works and what hasn’t and find solutions to advance more P3s.
How we approach infrastructure is also changing significantly in Canada. Indigenous communities are leading net-zero energy projects, broadband is an urgent priority in all regions, and new federal regulations are driving a boom in water/wastewater projects. How can P3s play a role?
It’s an exciting and incredibly challenging time for those who plan, design, build, finance, and service infrastructure across the country — and the opportunities are great. But resources are often limited, whether that’s public funding, labour, construction materials, or all three right now.
Together, the private and public sectors can find solutions such as how a project is bundled, how financing is used, or to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maintenance costs by thinking long-term about how an asset will operate.
For example, we have a proven track record of successful municipal water, wastewater, and energy-from-waste projects across Canada. And we’re beginning to think through how P3 principles can be applied in new areas such as broadband.
Indigenous communities continue to face significant infrastructure gaps when it comes to health care, transportation, and clean water. However, we’ve seen much progress in this area through true partnerships, collaboration, and innovative thinking. The rise of Indigenous net-zero projects is another example of where this is happening.
Any closing thoughts?
The infrastructure sector is facing considerable headwinds at the moment, but there’s also hope.
The industry is working hard to find solutions to labour shortages, supply chain issues, inflation, and pricing uncertainties to keep budgets and schedules on track. But, to maintain healthy competition in the sector and to ensure projects can happen when governments want, the need has perhaps never been greater for public and private collaboration.
A P3 approach, where value for money can be demonstrated for taxpayers, provides a proven framework for those discussions to lead to successful projects.
This article was made possible with support from the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships.