EDMONTON — The Alberta Construction Association (ACA) has responded to a request for input from the provincial government on its proposed Infrastructure Act and 20-Year Capital Strategic Plan.
ACA president Ken Gibson sent an open letter to Alberta Minister of Infrastructure Prasad Panda that both agreed with the basic principles of the government’s plans and urged it to further to make infrastructure funding more stable, affordable, and efficient.
“In the spirit of your government’s vision for Red Tape Reduction, we urge the government develop the Infrastructure Act as a transformative means to ensure that Alberta plans, delivers, and maintains the most competitive infrastructure in North America,” Gibson said.
The Alberta government proposed several criteria as key to capital planning, including health, safety, and compliance, strategic alignment, economic impacts, improved program and services delivery, life cycle costs and return on investment and resilient communities. The ACA letter termed these criteria as “a good first step.”
The letter went on to ask the government to give higher priority to projects that leverage shared investment between multiple partners, anticipate future needs with adaptability to repurpose buildings over their life cycle, and foster regional development over singular projects and to favour “not individual communities, but whole community development where a community would be a single city or town, or a cluster of cities and towns in a region of the province, with favorable growth prospects and existing provincially‐supported government facilities.”
The ACA also encouraged the provincial government to bolster regional business investment partnership opportunities to diversify regional economies and broaden municipal development plans.
Gibson also encouraged the government to mandate 10-year capital programs through the Infrastructure Act updated on an annual basis and including specific projects.
“The act should mandate asset management plans for all public sector entities fully or partly funded by the province. Projects in the 10-year program should be determined from asset management plans and application of the capital planning criteria,” the letter stated.
Procurement models and capital spending were also a focus for the ACA.
“Cuts to the provincial capital budget to provide short term spending restraint ultimately cost taxpayers in the long run. Dramatic swings in the levels of infrastructure investment undermine contractor planning and investment in people and equipment, interrupt development of apprentices, and increase costs to taxpayers when industry capacity must rebuild to deliver increased project demand,” Gibson said.
The government should embody principles in the act for use of alternative financing including public-private partnerships, return to a dedicated capital account with the flexibility of multi-year committed budgets and development of an independent public agency with a legislated mandate and contractual commitment from the provincial government to plan and oversee building and maintenance public infrastructure.
“Ontario and British Columbia have Crown Agencies that maintain the capacity to procure and deliver on decades-long capital plans. These agencies have proven to deliver effectiveness and efficiency for taxpayers and provide a stable business climate for industry. We urge the government to adopt a similar approach.,” Gibson said.