Mr. Ehren Cory was appointed CEO of Infrastructure Ontario (IO) earlier this year. IO partners with both the public and private sectors to build, manage, finance, and enhance the value of the province’s assets.

Mediaplanet: IO recently brought its 100th project to market using the made-in-Ontario approach to P3s, alternative financing and procurement. That’s obviously a major milestone for the organization. Will there be 100 more?

Ehren Cory: We are incredibly proud of this achievement. Those 100 projects represent a province-wide renewal and modernization of hospitals, courthouses, and significant new transportation projects including highways and light rail transit lines over the past 12 years.  Their capital value exceeds $45 billion of investment into public infrastructure.
Looking ahead, we have taken the opportunity to consider how we build on our success as we deliver our next 100 projects.

MP: What does the next set of IO’s AFP projects look like?

EC: The province has tasked us with a significant workload on all fronts. Each year IO shares an update with the market of what projects it expects to bring to market. We expect to provide our next update later this fall.

Ambitious transit projects such as Metrolinx’s Regional Express Rail program continue to progress. The province’s historic infrastructure investment also includes significant new investments in hospitals and justice facilities. I expect many of those projects will be a prominent addition to our next market update.

IO has also taken on a broader mandate and additional responsibilities since our first project went to market 12 years ago. We have become not only builders of public infrastructure but also stewards of publicly owned real estate and infrastructure more generally. As our early AFP projects have entered into service, we have increasingly stepped into a role in the operations phase — helping project owners to manage the maintenance of their assets, leveraging the performance-based commercial elements of the AFP contract to ensure long-lasting, high-quality infrastructure. More broadly, on behalf of the province, our real estate division oversees Ontario’s portfolio of government buildings and land, which is one of the largest and most diverse in the country. Our staff are experts in managing everything from modern courthouses to award-winning, energy-efficient government buildings, to vacant properties that we can sell for revenues to support government priorities.

MP: What are some of the ingredients of IO’s success on these huge, complex projects valued at $100 million or more?

EC: We are constantly reviewing our track record and adjusting to incorporate new innovation and experience. We have learned many lessons, like how proper up front planning can avoid expensive changes during construction; how empirical data and improved budgeting processes can help us make informed decisions; and developing new ways to link payments to completion of projects and the achievement of key milestones in ways that incentivize performance but minimize financing costs.

MP: Partnerships are the lynchpin for P3s. How important is it to find the right partners for your projects?

EC: Good partners are key. We seek out the best partners from around the world. By requiring local knowledge as a key component of any partnership, we create opportunities for companies closer to home to participate in our program.

MP: You launched a Vendor Performance Program earlier this year. Can you explain what it is and why you feel it’s important?

EC: We can only maintain our reputation if we continue to hold ourselves — and our partners — to the highest standards. By doing so, we are aiming to hold up IO’s work as the gold standard of project delivery, both for cost-effectiveness and quality. A key component of our efforts to continuously raise the bar is focused on the performance of our private sector partners. Our Vendor Performance Program establishes a standard approach for evaluating the past performance of vendors. That evaluation can be considered as part of a vendor’s bid on future IO work. The Program sets out clear expectations and benchmarks and encourages vendor responsibility and accountability — that benefits both vendors and IO.