A group of CEOs from companies spanning the entire globe gave their perspective on the Canadian market during the 28th annual Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships conference. Here is a selection of quotes from their virtual session:
Ian Edwards, president and CEO, SNC-Lavalin Inc.
“For me, the Canadian market presents innovation. The whole industry and the way assets get delivered has room for improvement. What I see is there is a real will in Canada to try and find a right model and framework to optimize the best outcomes.”
“Specifically thinking about the P3 model, I think the model has been successful. I think through social infrastructure the model is still working. Generally you are talking about buildings. There are manageable risks, manageable interfaces. The issue is with linear infrastructure as these projects are larger and impact communities through many interfaces. The risk factors have become unmanageable through the development phase and it is more about transferring that risk than dealing with it together. The model works on a win or lose scenario. It needs to change.”
“The productivity and delivery of infrastructure has not improved in 50 years. Our industry is the lowest adopter of digital data and technology. We also have got to build more sustainable assets if we want to be net-zero by 2050. We have to integrate all the capabilities from the public and private sector and private financing post-COVID will be essential.”
“The good news in Canada is that the provinces and federal government have it on their agenda and the conversations are happening. We aren’t there, we haven’t found a solution yet, but we are getting there.”
Alina Osorio, CEO, Fiera Infrastructure
“As an infrastructure investor, we are looking at the stability of the contract framework and the revenue line. These P3 projects and the P3 sector and the Canadian model really have the stability we are looking for. And the track record of the contractual framework in the time and stress of COVID-19 has been an important test for these assets. Lastly, we like that this model is extending to other sectors within infrastructure. It started with social projects and now we are seeing it extending into LRT and hopefully wastewater. That is also an attractive feature.”
“There is not a lack of capital in this market. Lots of people like us would like to invest. I think sometimes we are solving the wrong problem.”
“I think the benefit of having equity there in these projects for the long-term is invaluable. From a governance perspective, it’s important to take the benefits of this model and modernize it and keep it up to date, but also encourage the industry to really think about not crowding out private capital. It’s not an issue of sufficiency of capital, it’s an issue of sufficiency of good quality projects.”
Ryan Brain, CEO, WSP Group Inc.
“Our global headquarters is in Quebec and Montreal. It’s about the stability of the economy. We have an infrastructure need that will carry us for many years to come, we have a great talent pool to draw from to do these projects.”
“When we are all honest, there are some bumpy projects throughout the country right now. All stakeholders know we can’t get to a great project outcome if there are winners and losers. In the end that catches up with all of us. But we are very encouraged because there is very open dialogue here.”
“(Alternative delivery models) are getting down to some of the core principles of what it will take for a project to be successful, like team chemistry, aligning values, innovation, sharing risk appropriately. It’s new to Canada of course, but the willingness to take a look and have this dialogue, to me, is an encouraging sign.”
Jennifer Aument, president, Transurban (North America)
“If you look at a market like Quebec, the road network is at least 50 years old. There is tremendous growth in the economy. You have heavy congestion problems and when we look at a market, the first thing we look at is if there is a need. There was a great need and we are looking 20 or 30 years ahead to modernize and upgrade that road network. Also, the Canadian market has had some success in P3s. That’s attractive, plus you have political stability. The bipartisan support in Quebec for transportation infrastructure makes that market an easy sell for my internal decision-makers.”
“The bar is very high for P3 projects. When these projects get bumpy it becomes a reflection on the whole P3 industry even though many of the challenges of the project had nothing to do with the P3 element. The onus is on us to be advocates, educators and build support for this model.”
“The economic strain, some of which we haven’t even yet begun to see, is straining governments. It’s never been more important for government to have all the tools to meet their needs. Unfortunately, large capital projects are often the first to go under this kind of strain. Private capital must play a role to help fill that gap.”
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