The future is bright for public-private partnerships (P3s) in Canada, the country’s minister of infrastructure and communities told delegates at a national P3 conference.
“Seize the moment. There has never been a better time to invest in Canada,” said Francois-Philippe Champagne at the 26th annual Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships conference in Toronto.
“I want to emphasize the magnitude of the opportunity before you. I don’t think there has been a better time for you to take a moment to look at what we’re doing in Canada and see what role you are going to play in making a difference. This is a chance for the public sector and the Canadian infrastructure industry to forge game-changing partnerships, invest in projects and demonstrate leadership in the global infrastructure landscape.”
Champagne discussed the role of P3s in the government’s Investing in Canada Plan and pointed out that $180 billion is only the federal portion and with provincial and municipal investments it will probably be closer to $300 billion.
“We want to expand with you the spectrum of opportunities. We want to attract more investment from within Canada and abroad because we know and you know that first class infrastructure is the best way to attract talent and investments,” Champagne said.
“Our success requires technology, innovation and partnership with the private sector. That’s why I encourage you…to help us build the infrastructure of the 21st century, infrastructure that is modern, resilient and green.”
He noted that Canada is the only G7 country with a free trade agreement with all other G7 nations and that Canada will also soon have preferential market access to about 1.5 billion consumers around the world through the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for TransPacific Partnership and the USMCA.
“Canada is an ideal location for global firms like you to operate because it is not just about stability, predictability and rule of law. I think you would agree with me that in this world today market access is key and labour mobility through these agreements is making Canada the obvious place to invest,” said Champagne.
The Canada Infrastructure Bank, a new tool to finance infrastructure in the country, is designed to expand the opportunities from the public sector to attract private sector investment from within Canada and globally, Champagne said. That includes transit systems, hospitals, bridges and all season roads in the north.
“We put the infrastructure bank in to do more, faster and better for Canadians,” he stated. “The P3 model was an important building block in the Canada Infrastructure Bank. It allows private sector partners to be brought in earlier from the planning stage…so we can better design projects and hopefully use technology to provide better assets for the people. Our role is to develop the pipeline of projects and bring investors and the public sector together to have appropriate risk-sharing in building these projects.”
Following his presentation, the minister was asked about the government’s involvement in the Sidewalk Labs project in Toronto, a partnership between Waterfront Toronto and Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs to create a new type of mixed-use community.
“This is probably the most technologically advanced project that is going on, at least in North America,” said Champagne.
“On one hand, we make sure we support a project that is trying to reinvent cities the way we know them. On the other hand, we are the defender of public interest so we have to make sure whatever is done there is done with all the safeguards that people would expect.
“We will continue to be engaged with them into the future because I think this can inform the way we design, build and maintain cities in the future.”
He also spoke about Montreal’s Reseau express metropolitain project (REM), a 67-kilometre, light rail, high-frequency network, the first project announced by the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
“REM is a good example where you have an asset which is revenue generating, which was a natural for us to invest in because you have a stream of revenue for the long-term, you have a willing partner, a technology partner and a builder and you have private capital,” said Champagne.