The freedom to innovate is at the heart of public-private partnerships (P3s) when it comes to building the much-needed public infrastructure that will enhance quality of life for Canadians for decades to come. 

In P3s, the government focuses their attention on the outcomes they want to achieve while deliberately not being prescriptive about the design or the materials used on a project. For a new hospital, that means telling the private sector how many beds are needed, not determining the elevator placement or picking out the flooring. 

By challenging the private sector to use their creativity and experience to put forward their best solutions in a competitive process, Canadians end up with smarter and more innovative infrastructure that’s built to last in a variety of sectors, from education and transportation to water and wastewater treatment. 

Opportunities for shared benefit 

Canada’s success in P3 innovation is impressive and is leading the government to expand its toolkit to get major public infrastructure built. For example, Ontario is building the Mimico and Woodbine GO stations completely from private dollars — rather than taxpayers’ — in return for granting air rights over the station. Known as transit-oriented development or land value capture, this approach helps ensure governments and citizens share in the benefit from the increased property values and local economic spinoffs created by their public infrastructure investments such as subway and LRT stations.

Tapping the private sector to find new approaches to problems is an opportunity for governments to stretch taxpayer dollars further and to reconsider our relationship to public infrastructure.

The growth of smart cities is another exciting area where partnerships with the private sector are sparking greater innovation to solve some of our greatest challenges. Recently, the federal government’s first-ever Smart Cities Challenge shone a light on a range of exciting initiatives that are fusing grassroots community activism with cutting-edge connected technology and data to end traffic snarls, lessen food waste, and enhance suicide prevention efforts. 

Tapping the private sector to find new approaches to problems is an opportunity for governments to stretch taxpayer dollars further and to reconsider our relationship to public infrastructure. To step out of the typical “box” of what a hospital has been and to consider what a hospital can be. And that truly is an innovation. 

To find out more about how Canada is applying innovation to advance public infrastructure, visit The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships.