Opinion: Don’t blame the P3 model for Edmonton LRT construction delays

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As Canada’s leading public-private partnership (P3) organization, representing Canada’s public and private sector industry, we have been disappointed by recent comments from Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and other special interest groups regarding the P3 model and the Edmonton LRT project.

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As the former federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Mayor Sohi is acutely aware of the benefits of partnering with the private sector to deliver much-needed public infrastructure and the complexities of delivering highly complex projects. He played a key role in the creation of the Canada Infrastructure Bank and was responsible for the Gordie Howe International Crossing and Champlain Bridge projects. The two great P3.

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These challenges can exist in the delivery of large and complex infrastructure projects regardless of the procurement model used, especially transit and other transportation-related projects. As noted by Professor Bent Flyvbjerg, a leading expert in the realization of megaprojects, urban transport projects are among the riskiest public infrastructure projects to be carried out in the world.

However, the advantage of the PPP model is that governments can not only harness the experience, expertise and capital of the private sector, but also enable them to find innovative approaches and efficiencies. While retaining ownership of the property.

PPPs bring together the design and construction of a project with long-term operations and maintenance, ensuring that the private partners have “the skin in the game”. This, in turn, encourages the delivery of high quality infrastructure and services to Canadians.

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As the article rightly points out, under PPP contracts the private sector is usually responsible for engineering and construction, so it will bear the costs of this delay and additional construction costs.

Value for taxpayers is at the heart of the PPP model. The model has been widely used across Canada for nearly 30 years now, with nearly 300 active projects having been purchased and delivered with a market value of over $139 billion. In fact, P3s have been successful across Canada and in many different sectors, including public transit. The Canada Line in Vancouver, which opened in 2009, was delivered within budget and ahead of schedule.

As part of our work on the board, we work with our public and private sector members to celebrate our successes and develop best practices.

But we also learn from our challenges, leverage lessons learned, and evolve and adapt to ensure our approach to PPPs remains best-in-class.

Canada is a world leader in P3s because we have processes in place to ensure that we use this model when it demonstrably makes sense. Omitting P3s from the options available to governments would hinder – not help – efforts to not only deliver value to taxpayers, but to ensure that value is delivered.

Lisa Mitchell is President and CEO of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships (CCPPP).


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