Ontario’s Registered Professional Planners, and planning professionals across Canada, play a crucial role in the facilitation of large-scale infrastructure projects. Mediaplanet spoke with two key figures from OPPI to discuss P3 projects in Ontario and the role of planners.

Mediaplanet: What role does infrastructure play in facilitating prosperity and growth?

Nathan Hyde: Infrastructure investments are crucial to facilitating growth that conforms to the Provincial Policy Statement and allows for the building of mixed-use homes, which contribute to creating complete communities. The Town of Erin is a case in point where growth is limited by the absence of any mechanical sewage treatment capacity. Only by investing in new infrastructure can towns like Erin attract new businesses and address the tax imbalance between residential and commercial/industrial ratepayers. There is a direct correlation between dollars spent on infrastructure and tax revenues for municipalities: ultimately, investment in infrastructure correlates with overall economic prosperity.

Mediaplanet: How can the public and private sectors work together to develop infrastructure and build healthy and sustainable communities?

Nathan Hyde: The public sector should strive to find ways to deliver services more efficiently and effectively, and that includes creative means through which to fund infrastructure. P3s are one such solution to the fiscal pressures facing municipalities. When done right, P3s offer tremendous benefits to public sector entities by capitalizing upon the expertise of the private sector, not negatively affecting debt capacity, and sharing the overall risk involved. While the P3 model is not viable in all cases, the various forms P3s can take make them worthy of consideration by governments when reviewing how to fund large community projects.

Mediaplanet: What is the role of planners when it comes to P3 projects?

Joe Berridge: In many ways, the P3 model is now the predominant method of delivering public infrastructure projects. The tendering process for such projects requires much greater discipline for planners. Decisions about the nature of the project have to be made in advance. This requires that planners effectively manage the detailed design and public input into infrastructure projects prior to the P3 being awarded. This demands sophisticated management by the planning profession.

The Ontario Professional Planners Institute’s 2018 Symposium takes place on October 11 and 12 at Laurentian University in the City of Greater Sudbury.