Ontario Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli says the recently released Building Better Lives: Ontario’s Long-Term Infrastructure Plan is not just a list of projects, it’s a strategic roadmap.
“We have a $190-billion infrastructure investment, we’re calling that the what. The long-term infrastructure plan is the how and the why. It sets out a vision for planning and building Ontario’s infrastructure,” Chiarelli said, adding a lot of work has gone into the 251-page document for the past year-and-a-half, which includes new initiatives and enhancements to existing plans.
Chiarelli said the construction industry is supportive of the plan.
“It gives greater certainty, it’s going to create better options for them,” said Chiarelli. “The construction industry is very happy with Infrastructure Ontario and our Alternative Financing and Procurement model. They’ve never been busier and infrastructure has never been built quicker and more efficiently.
“They have been consulted on this long-term infrastructure plan and they like the direction we’re moving in.”
There are several specific priorities in the plan, Chiarelli said, which are intended to be fully rolled out over the course of the next two to three years.
He said the government is initiating a tool called the life cycle assessment of infrastructure in 2019, which is a way to assess infrastructure in the new world of climate change and disruptive technologies.
This plan will have, for the first time, a list of critical assets, broader public service assets with global evaluations for them
— Bob Chiarelli
Ontario Minister of Infrastructure
“It’s a tool that can be used to measure the environmental impact of an infrastructure asset over its cradle to grave lifespan. In other words from the time it starts to the time its decommissioned,” said Chiarelli, adding it puts an environmental cost on a project instead of just a fiscal cost that is looked at today.
“It will help us measure greenhouse gas impacts of specific infrastructure projects so we can make better decisions that will help us meet our greenhouse gas reduction targets as outlined in our Climate Change Action Plan.”
The community benefits program is another area of focus in the plan.
“This can be local job creation, training opportunities, apprenticeships and there is even consideration being given to creating a regulation or a law that allows municipalities to give property tax credits to those businesses whose revenues are decreased because of construction disruption,” said Chiarelli. “In our larger infrastructure projects the RFPs will require more pilot projects to develop our community benefits programs.
“We will work with the construction sector, social services and community groups to identify future projects and the timeline to lock down a specific policy is sometime in 2020.”
The government also intends to move forward with a Social Purpose Real Estate Strategy that will help embed community and social needs into government decision-making on surplus properties. Ontario is the second largest landowner in Canada, second only to the federal government, Chiarelli explained.
“We do have surplus land that comes up on a regular basis…and what we have just initiated is a process of making the land available for social purposes,” said Chiarelli.
“We’ve just done one for the first time in the last several months with respect to affordable housing. We made available a very well situated parcel of land in downtown Toronto which is going to be discounted for a developer bidder who will build affordable housing units in Toronto and it would have minimal fiscal impact for us.”
This plan also proposes the first full provincial asset inventory which includes a description of the condition, age and value of Ontario’s assets by sectors.
“This plan will have, for the first time, a list of critical assets, broader public service assets with global evaluations for them,” said Chiarelli. “We’re also creating an evidence-based framework to strengthen infrastructure prioritization and we’re working to ensure infrastructure planning supports our provinces land use planning framework.”