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Ministry of Infrastructure of Ontario Holds Consultation on 10-Year Plan

Ontario’s 10-year infrastructure plan will soon be unveiled and it will be a blueprint that responds to the needs of all stakeholders involved, according to an article by Vince Versace in the Daily Commercial News. The plan will involve an estimated $60 billion in funding and is expected to tackle Ontario’s infrastructure deficit through a comprehensive, dedicated strategy.

“We have been listening and held broad consultation across the province,” Bob Chiarelli, Ontario’s infrastructure minister, recently told the publication. “We have had a revolving door of stakeholders come through our boardroom, sharing their thoughts and ideas on infrastructure, funding and relationships. We have listened very carefully.

“We have also had some significant internal consultations and roundtables with each ministry that performs significant capital spending such as health care, education and transportation,” said Chiarelli. “They were required to make 10-year plans and we used those as a basis for moving forward. We combined all the 10-year plans and negotiated, discussed and refined them.”

Chiarelli said some “common themes” became evident through the external and internal consultations. “The most significant one, particularly from the municipal sector which is very infrastructure intensive, is the whole issue of predictability and sustainability. They need a partner in government to provide signposts for 10 years as to what will be available, what we are looking for in requirements.”

The size of the funding commitment attached to the plan is a question raised by many interested stakeholders, including the construction industry, Chiarelli acknowledges. He noted that the plan’s funding will be subject to economic circumstance – if there is another recession, it will be scaled back and if there is a high level of growth, it can be expanded. The aim is to keep it as high as possible.

“The ministry of infrastructure is somewhat like the ministry of finance, but for capital. We have a lot of input on what the spending envelope will be in each year. The envelope has not yet been determined, but we will know within the next four to six weeks,” said Chiarelli. “It will be a very healthy signpost, indicating the funding envelope target.

The commitment by the recently re-elected Conservative government to develop a long-term federal public infrastructure plan after 2014 is encouraging, said Chiarelli. “What has come through loudly and clearly from all stakeholder groups is that Canada-wide we have a serious infrastructure deficit and most of it at the municipal level. Collectively, the federal, provincial and municipal governments have not made a significant dent in that. One of the things we are calling for, and probably calling for it officially in the plan, is that we in effect almost institutionalize that partnership with those levels of government so, that for the first time in 40 years, we will actually make a dent in the infrastructure deficit.”

There has been significant dialogue with respect to regulatory requirements and approvals within the plan, said Chiarelli. “There have been some significant concerns registered by the development community and contractors in terms of certificates of approvals and environmental issues that take too long,” he said.

“Generally a lot of concern in the construction industry about the need to meet environmental concerns is the time it involves and the process. We are working to tighten that up. It is also a concern to us. We realize there has to be a shorter time frame and we have to be more efficient and have more efficient tools from the start of a project to finishing one.”