US Lessons from Canada’s P3 Model

Published December, 2021

P3 Fundamentals

The Infrastructure Lab’s former Chair, David Caplan, was the Minister of Infrastructure behind introducing Ontario’s (AFP) public-private partnership (P3) model. Below are the key elements for developing a successful P3 model that delivers results.

Key Themes

  1. Emphasize Public: P3s are primarily a project delivery model that reduces risk of delays and cost overruns, and ensures things are built to last. Underline that for key assets, ownership will ultimately remain with the public, and that the P3 could be considered a lease.
  2. Use Incentives: Provide an option to access funding for projects prepared to try the P3 approach. This allows other levels of government to weigh it up objectively and decide whether to proceed or not. Once they’ve done a project successfully, they’ll do it again.
  3. Develop Expertise: Develop the right skills in government to match the private sector and bring in specialist external expertise when needed. Create a single body to be the centre of expertise to deliver all P3 projects on behalf of the government.
  4. Start Simple: A first P3 project in a jurisdiction should be as simple and uncontroversial
    as possible. Once local officials and companies get used ‎to the new system, they can take on more complex projects. Don’t experiment on a big airport or transit line.
  5. Develop Pipeline: It takes a lot of resources and effort to bid on P3s, a pipeline of projects gives companies a reason to invest, bring in their best people, and focus on where their expertise is most suited. Give them one shot at winning a project and it becomes a risky investment.
  6. Stick to Timelines: Providing clear project timelines and sticking to them breeds confidence in the market and attracts the best bidders. It helps companies plan resources – companies staff up for big P3 bids so delayed announcements add to project costs.
  7. Standardize Docs: Standardized documents help to keep politics out of the process. A consistent approach also reduces the administrative burden for those developing tenders, bidders, and those assessing bids.
  8. Be Transparent: Be clear and transparent on decision criteria upfront for procurements, make that criterion as objective as possible, and provide ‎open and comprehensive feedback to losing bidders so they can come back stronger and provide future competition.
  9. Grow Support: Change is difficult so extra effort needs to go into making it easy for local suppliers to get involved in big projects. Provide open-houses and training for local companies to help them get involved – if they win work, they will be supportive.
  10. Celebrate Success: This is a communications exercise with the public and industry. Celebrate each project completed on time and on budget‎ and explain when the contractor is on the hook for delays. A positive track record is the best way to win over doubters.