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Infrastructure Governance

Across Canada there are unprecedented levels of investment in infrastructure. These investments will shape Canada’s long-term success in terms of economic growth, improving the quality of life and promoting equity, and mitigating environmental impact. Governments across Canada can get more value from these investments by working with the private sector to adapt the processes they use from planning, to delivery, to operations.

Public infrastructure is delivered by the public and private sectors together and a more evidence-based, collaborative approach would present a win-win. Countries like Australia, the UK, and New Zealand have recognized that the status quo around planning, procuring, and delivering infrastructure is unsustainable and have used assessments as an early step towards building broad understanding of the issues faced before developed strategies, plans, and incremental changes to get greater value for public investment.

Although the Federal Government is only responsible for delivering and maintaining a small proportion of national infrastructure, it has an important role to play in setting a national direction around reform in the overall approach to infrastructure delivery. As evidenced by the work of the Australian Government, and in particular Infrastructure Australia, a strong direction provided a basis that states and territories could build on. This starts with having best practice processes and governance for Federal projects, and using a range of tools to encourage reforms at other levels of government that will ultimately ensure that they see greater impact from their investments. Other levels of government can also play a role and there are strong examples of best practices within Canada that can be applied in other jurisdictions to deliver benefits.

Canada’s National Infrastructure Assessment

Read the Future of Infrastructure’s submission to the National Infrastructure Assessment.

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Learning from the U.K.’s National Infrastructure Assessment

The first National Infrastructure Assessment was published by the National Infrastructure Commission in 2018. Work on the second assessment is already underway and is due to be published in 2023. As well as looking at specific areas such as digital infrastructure, renewable energy, transportation, cities, and water, it also examined how best to choose and design, and fund and finance infrastructure. The Assessment was used as a basis to develop the UK’s first National Infrastructure Strategy. This discussion aims to draw lessons from the UK’s experience to ensure investments in infrastructure deliver better value and better outcomes.

Learning from Australia’s Infrastructure Audit

The Australian Infrastructure Audit first conducted by the independent body Infrastructure Australia in 2015 and updated every 5 years. As well as looking at future trends, and cross-sectoral challenges, the Audit examined ways to improve industry efficiency, capacity, and capability. The Audit is also used as the basis to develop the Australian Infrastructure Plan. This discussion aims to draw lessons from Australia’s experience to ensure investments in infrastructure deliver better value and better outcomes.

Learning from the New South Wales Government Action Plan

The New South Wales Government established the NSW Government Action Plan: A ten‑point commitment to the construction sector in 2018 as a foundation to strengthen the relationship between the government and private sector to drive better project outcomes. The Action Plan was developed through the Construction Leadership Group, a group of leading public sector capital entities, working together to address challenges across government in the development, procurement, and delivery of infrastructure and building projects. Infrastructure NSW leads the implementation of the Action Plan, tracking data on performance against commitments across projects with a capital value of over $50 million. This data is used to draw lessons on improvements, and drive further improvement.

In Canada there is a similarly ambitious program of infrastructure investment. Across projects of all types there are common challenges, and innovative approaches to solving those challenges. Most of those challenges are experienced every day around the world and progress has been stymied by the often a system that nurtures a transactional, project-to-project approach within the sector. NSW provides a template to help transform the fundamentals of the relationship into more of a partnership across government with the private sector.

Key Learnings