Canada: Infrastructure @ Gowlings

Last Updated: September 3 2004

Edited by David McFadden


  • Ontario Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal Announces Discussion Paper for Growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe
  • Windsor Gateway Infrastructure Funding for Border Improvements
  • RAV Revisited
  • Québec Government Tables Legislation for New Public-Private Infrastructure Partnership
  • BOMA International 2004 North American Commercial Real Estate Congress

Ontario Minister Of Public Infrastructure Renewal Announces Discussion Paper For Growth In The Greater Golden Horseshoe

On July 12, David Caplan, Ontario's Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal, announced the government's plan for building strong communities and a prosperous economy with the release of a discussion paper outlining its plan for growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe for the next 30 years (from Peterborough to Kitchener-Waterloo to Niagara Falls). This is the fastest-growing region in Canada with almost 4 million people expected to settle in the area (equal to the existing population of Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton combined).

The projected growth will place pressure on an already strained infrastructure system. If this analysis is correct, by 2031 commute time would increase by 42 % and new development would consume more than 1,000 sq. km of farmland (double the size of Toronto).

The discussion paper, Places To Grow: Better Choices. Brighter Future, outlines proposed provincial decisions on a number of issues, including urban planning, land use, economic development and investment in public infrastructure like roads, public transit, schools, healthcare facilities and water and sewer systems.

"This visionary plan comes at a critical point in time for the economic prosperity of the region," said Bob Onyschuk, Chairman of the Board of the Canadian Urban Institute and a partner at Gowlings. "If we want Toronto and the GTA to achieve first-tier status amongst North America's successful city regions in the 21st century, then this is the plan and we need to do it now."

"This is an historic document," Caplan said. "For the first time in our history, we have the basis of a plan to manage population growth and economic expansion in a rational, intelligent way, instead of trying to catch up to it after the fact. This is our chance - maybe our last chance - to build the future we want."

Gowlings partner, Bob Onyschuk and Urban Strategies Inc. partner Joe Berridge have prepared a report to support the growth plan on the implementation and financing tools and incentives for municipalities. The report will be released by the province within the next couple of months and we will keep you up-to-date.

The government is seeking public input and response to the discussion paper to help shape the content of the final plan. Please visit for further details.

Windsor Gateway Infrastructure Funding For Border Improvements

On March 11, 2004, the governments of Canada, Ontario and Windsor announced new measures that are part of a joint $300 million federal-provincial investment to help improve the Windsor Gateway, Canada's busiest border crossing. The new measures fall within the Let's Get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy, a multi-year plan to improve road safety, speed up the flow of cross-border traffic, protect and strengthen local jobs and growth, and beautify transportation corridors.

The above-noted financial commitment was announced roughly a year and half ago, which was then followed by a 9-Point Plan for how that money would be spent. As a result of strong opposition from the City of Windsor and local residents, the 9-Point Plan was stalled.

The most recent announcement this past March therefore abandoned the previously approved 9-Point Plan, while approving five projects that the City of Windsor had asked for, including:

  • Improvements to the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Plaza in order to provide more effective traffic management, including the implementation of the NEXUS program;
  • The construction of a pedestrian overpass for Huron Church road by a local high school to improve safety of residents and children;
  • The final design and construction of the Walker Road rail grade separation and an environmental assessment for another proposed rail grade separation to reduce traffic congestion and support the efficient movement of goods by rail and trucking modes;
  • Improvements to the Industrial Drive/Huron Church Road intersection to support the development of a pre-processing facility on Industrial Drive; and
  • The installation of intelligent transportation systems along transportation corridors leading to the border crossings.

Beyond these five initial projects, the three levels of government agreed to meet to develop a Phase 2 agreement on additional projects that will be pursued to improve the efficiency of the Windsor Gateway. They also agreed to work with the governments of the United States and Michigan to expedite the completion of the Bi-National Planning Process.

On April 20, 2004, the first of the above-approved projects was started with an announcement that the Governments of Canada and Ontario will jointly issue a Request for Proposals to develop and implement strategies for new technologies involving high tech intelligent transportation systems in order to improve traffic flow.

According to Ontario Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar, "Perhaps the biggest change of all is a change in attitude. There is a new spirit of cooperation among all levels of government." How the defeat of Susan Whelan, the former three-term Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Essex, Ontario, and the election of a minority parliament in Ottawa will affect the ability of the new federal government to pursue its agenda will unfold in the months ahead. With a newly elected Conservative MP, Jeff Watson, and several NDP members re-elected in the Windsor area such as Joe Comartin and Brian Masse, it will be important for the Liberals to concentrate on a strategy of cooperation that will ensure that the Let's Get Windsor-Essex Moving initiative progresses.

In the end, people are hopeful that progress will finally be made to resolve the traffic problems in this region because of the vital role the region plays in moving commercial goods across the border, especially so for the big three automotive manufacturers. Windsor is the single-most important border crossing point between Canada and the U.S.. More than 20 million cars, trucks and buses travel through the city each year, representing about thirty-three percent of Canada-U.S. truck trade. Given Paul Martin's family roots in the Windsor area, it is anticipated that he will pay extra special attention to resolving the economic damaging gridlock that too often chokes the roadways and Gateway between Canada and the U.S.

RAV Revisited

In our May 18 edition, we reported that the RAV Project (Richmond Airport Vancouver rapid transit project) had been terminated. The Board of the regional transit authority, TransLink, had voted to do so.

Motions to reconsider the TransLink Board's decision were twice brought back to the TransLink Board. On June 30, 2004, the TransLink Board voted to continue with the selection process with the two proponents, and agreed to allow the project to proceed as long as the accepted bid requires no more than $1.35 billion of public funds. The intent is to proceed to the best and final offer stage, and select a private partner for the project, subject to these financial parameters.

The RAV project is a twenty kilometre rail link from downtown Vancouver to Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport. Part of the project will run underground, with other components at or above grade. Completion is expected in 2009.

Québec Government Tables Legislation For New Public-Private Infrastructure Partnership

On June 17, 2004, the Québec government tabled legislation establishing a new agency to govern all public-private infrastructure partnerships within the province. The new agency will be called "Agence des partenariats public-privé du Québec" or "Partenariats Québec."

Its mission is to contribute to the renewal of public infrastructure and the enhancement of services delivered to citizens through public-private partnerships. The bill defines a public-private partnership contract as a "long term contract under which a public body allows a private-sector enterprise to participate, with or without a financial contribution, in designing, constructing or operating a public work." (Bill 61 s.6 National Assembly - First Session - Thirty Seventh Legislature Québec Official Publisher (2004)).

Among the proposed duties and functions of the agency are to:

  • advise the government on any public-private partnership matter, particularly with regards to selection and prioritization;
  • operate a public-private partnership knowledge and expertise centre that will be accessible to all persons;
  • inform public bodies, the business community and the general public about the concept of public management in the public-private partnership mode;
  • develop and apply promotion strategies to foster public-private partnerships;
  • be involved in all aspects of the delivery of infrastructures, equipment and public services; and
  • provide expert services to public bodies for the evaluation of their infrastructure, equipment and public service delivery projects in the public-private partnership mode.

In addition to detailing the financial and organizational structure of the agency, the bill also provides for the formation of special committees of experts chosen for their knowledge and expertise in fields related to public-private partnerships. The bill further stipulates that all public bodies must use the services of the agency for their public-private partnership project except in the case subject to the conditions determined by the government.

Although in its early stages, the Committee on Public Finance has been instructed to hold public hearings beginning on October 5, 2004 in pursuance of a general consultation on the bill.

Bill 61 s.6 National Assembly - First Session - Thirty Seventh Legislature Québec Official Publisher (2004)

Boma International 2004 North American Commercial Real Estate Congress

On June 26-27 in Toronto, the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) held its International 2004 North American Commercial Real Estate Congress. The conference was a great success with attendance nearing 1000 delegates. Gowlings partner Bob Onyschuk was a speaker at the event speaking on the topic, "Rebuilding Urban Infrastructure," to a break-out session of 150 delegates. Mr. Onyschuk's presentation focused on the growing infrastructure deficit in Canada ranging from $57-$110 billion (depending on the source) for water/sewer, roads/bridges, electricity, hospitals and transit. The solution, he says, must come from an increased financial commitment from the government, increased borrowing by municipalities (noting that increased debt does not mean higher taxes) and the use of public-private partnerships or alternative service delivery which has yielded positive results in the U.S., U.K. and E.U.

For a copy of this presentation, please e-mail Linda Lau

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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