With an expected $125 Billion in extra federal funding for
infrastructure over the next 10 years, infrastructure has become as
sexy as tech....well maybe not quite. A wastewater project is
never going to capture the public eye like an app that helps track
the best tasting beer but it is fair to say the public benefit may
be somewhat greater. There is also an immediate need for
infrastructure spending, particularly in terms of recapitalizing
existing infrastructure. The 2016 Canadian Infrastructure Report
Card notes that "one third of our municipal infrastructure is
in fair, poor, or very poor condition, increasing the risk of
The problem lies in projects that are shovel-ready and
shovel-worthy. There were hundreds of millions left unspent from
the previous government's infrastructure program because
infrastructure projects take time to plan properly, depending on
their size which can take several years. In order to inject this
infrastructure investment into the economy, these projects should
have already progressed to the point that funds can be granted.
There has been a lot of discussion over projects not just being
shovel-ready but shovel-worthy. There should be no distinction
between the two. If a project has been vetted effectively
throughout the various stages of the project life-cycle then it
should be shovel-worthy, unfortunately this is often not the
What needs to be done to ensure projects are shovel-ready and
There needs to be data that can be used to monitor
the performance of our infrastructure
The data should be standardized and regularly updated and
preferably publically available. It can be used to develop metrics
that monitor the performance of our infrastructure. This data will
provide leading indicators as to where problems exist and a strong
basis to plan.
There needs to be clear service standards or
benchmarks established for infrastructure
This is more easily accomplished for some infrastructure services.
However, regardless of the value of the information collected from
step one it only provides half the story unless there is a mandated
benchmark to assess performance over time. This has recently been
identified in Australia as a key recommendation by its independent
infrastructure body, Infrastructure Australia, made up of
government officials, top business people and academics. Service
standards are a key guide to future planning and development. We
shouldn't shy away from using this advice.
There needs to be a clear, independent business
An independent business case articulates the need, the various
options to address, the costs and the benefits, financial and
non-financial aspects. The chances of project funding are
dramatically improved when backed by an objective and rigorous
business case assessment. If there is publically available data and
standardized set of service standards or benchmarks for
infrastructure services then this will allow for projects to be
compared and contrasted between jurisdictions. Coupled with strong
project governance and a vigorous internal review process, these
projects will have the best chance of meeting Federal Government
criteria and allow the funds to flow.
The new Government has stated that they will develop a new
framework for how it handles infrastructure projects, including
giving more autonomy to municipalities to identify their
infrastructure priorities. The Government is also expected make the
process more transparent, ensure that project criteria are easier
to understand, and speed up approvals for projects.
However, municipalities don't need to wait for this. They
can put their own systems and standards in place and make it easier
to get funding into critical infrastructure projects sooner.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Russell v. Township of Georgian Bay provides a useful reminder of the fact that while municipal officials sometimes appear to hold all of the cards in disputes with home owners, that is not always the case.
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