News & Events

Ontario turns to private firms for infrastructure cash

November 7, 2013

Ontario is looking for private partners with deep pockets to help build transit and other infrastructure, opening the door for large pension funds and more companies to invest, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday in advance of her government’s fall economic statement, according to a report in the Toronto Star.

Signalling an enhanced role for public-private partnerships, Wynne told a P3 conference they are “critical” to making Ontario a better place to live.
“We cannot take infrastructure for granted. If we do, our economy will stagnate, our safety and quality of life will be jeopardized,” she warned, saying infrastructure is “at the very heart of my government’s plan.”
As the Star first reported, the fall economic statement will make it law that government does long-term infrastructure planning to avoid gaps like the shortage of public transit in the heavily congested Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area after too many years of inaction. “You cannot take long pauses,” Wynne told hundreds of business types at the conference in the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.
Ontario is already doing 83 major public-private partnership projects, including 14 hospitals, and the government is planning another $35 billion in infrastructure projects over the next three years, as announced in last spring’s budget.
So-called P3s will be expanded to more types of projects, including 11 new ones to be taken on by the government agency Infrastructure Ontario with the potential to support an average of 18,000 jobs annually until 2020, the premier said.
“I want to build up individuals by giving them the hospitals, the schools, the transit systems that will help them in their everyday lives,” Wynne added. A source familiar with the contents of Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s fall economic statement confirmed promoting P3 infrastructure is a cornerstone of the government’s plan.  Sousa is expected to announce rules will be changed to lift the restriction on Ontario institutional investors owning public infrastructure projects. Currently a pension fund can only own up to 30 per cent of such an entity, but that will be amended to allow them to own something outright.
That’s to enable pension funds, which are seeking domestic investments, to keep their billions in Ontario.
As well, the province will try to monetize the expertise of Infrastructure Ontario, its innovative private-public partnership agency that has built dozens of hospitals and court houses over the past decade.
The arm’s-length agency will be working with the National Governors’ Association in the U.S. to sell Ontario’s program stateside. That is expected to generate millions for Ontario-based banks and law firms.
The Liberals plan to table an Infrastructure Plan Act to force the current and subsequent governments to have five- or 10-year planning on building public infrastructure. By:  Provincial Politics Queen's Park Bureau Chief Thu Nov 07 2013
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