The city and infrastructure

Okay, I guess the ticket to having a blog is actually maintaining it and keeping up with regular posts. I suppose I have been fairly busy with work and life in general and recently got back from a nice holiday from the deepfreeze in Florida.

Things at the City remain interesting. My main file, which has been to develop and implement a strategy for public-private partnerships (P3s) is going fairly well, with a Council Policy approved in December and now we are into the process of communicating that policy to senior management and seeking some projects to evaluate for their potential to be delivered as P3 projects. The response seems to be that going through this process is good for the City in terms of due-diligence, and demonstrating value by comparing the P3 options against traditional procurement, but I sense some skepticism about whether it could work for municipal government, where there is already great depth of experience in service delivery. The answers to this are complex, and mainly hang on issues of risk transfer, innovation and looking at full life-cycle costs (operations and maintenance) but these can be difficult to explain to a culture used to a certain way of doing things. It’s early days though, and I am still optimistic.

I still believe that Calgary has a huge infrastructure challenge, not just to address future growth, but to catch up with the growth over the last 20 years during which very little got built, a consequence of Alberta’s rigid adherence to fiscal austerity in the Klein years. The bill has come due, and while there is more money in the system, there is limited ability of governments to ramp up delivery to the scale that is required. P3 is an opportunity to achieve that by requiring the private sector to put some of their own capital at risk, and lever innovation for faster delivery. I’ll talk in a future post about some of the projects I believe should be advanced in this city.

As an aside, interesting to see the high profile of the infrastructure file back in my old home province where the province has just announced $32.5 billion in infrastructure spending over the next 2 years. This is truly unprecedented; the biggest spend in relative terms since the 1960s (before I was born). I think this is a good thing, though it is surprising, and ironic that it took the fear of this recession to bring it about. I think this is not just about make work projects but instead governments realizing that future growth will depend on making significant investments in future productivity.

That’s all for now – cheers!

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