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24 FEB 2020

Infrastructure Ontario sets ambitious path forward

Amie Silverwood

Amie Silverwood

Content Manager - Communications and Media

Toronto, Canada

RICS

The Canadian Province of Ontario is in the midst of an infrastructure and construction boom and the City of Toronto is the fastest growing city in North America by population. Outside of the City of Toronto, the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) includes thriving residential cities that have strong economic ties to Toronto with residents commuting regularly over long distances by car or rail to work.

Right-sizing transit to serve these growing populations has been a challenge as transit projects have fallen behind but fixing this problem is the mandate given to Infrastructure Ontario, a governmental body that oversees the province’s major projects. At the recent RICS and CIQS Construction and Project Management Seminar held in the GTHA on February 20, Michael Lindsay President, Project Delivery and David Ho, Executive Vice President, Procurement & Program Management explained how Infrastructure Ontario plans to partner with the industry to get things built.

“There’s a lot of work coming in the province and we’re deeply thoughtful on the best way to deliver it,” said Michael Lindsay. “We’re looking for the industry to help shape the design, delivery and upkeep of the transportation assets.”

Lindsay described a 60-billion-dollar pipeline of projects ranging across all types of asset classes. This pipeline is double the capital value of all the projects Infrastructure Ontario has delivered since it was established in 2005.

This rapid ramp up brings challenges – the industry has a skill and capacity gap that is growing at an alarming rate – but Lindsay speaks of a provincial government who has prioritized infrastructure improvements and is willing to do what it takes to get them done.

He pointed to a recent announcement by Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney on the proposed Building Transit Faster Act. This new act is meant to provide the province and Infrastructure Ontario with additional tools to remove barriers and expedite the planning, design and construction process for transit projects.

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“There’s a lot of work coming in the province and we’re deeply thoughtful on the best way to deliver it,” said Michael Lindsay. “We’re looking for the industry to help shape the design, delivery and upkeep of the transportation assets.”

“This is a unique opportunity,” said Lindsay. “There’s been a recognition that to take a quantum leap forward, we need to build added depth and scale. Transit that people can use. It’s absolutely what is required to get people moving across the city of Toronto.”

But Infrastructure Ontario does not work alone. It partners with the industry and the local communities for the successful completion of its projects. Lindsay recognizes the need to work with professional bodies like RICS and other stakeholders to ensure risk is collaboratively managed and contracts are fair.

Achieving the scale-up required to achieve the projects in the pipeline “requires real partners in the private sector,” he added, “leveraging the best of thinking from the private sector in the design and delivery of these projects.” Much of this work happens even before the procurement is begun.

David Ho spoke of the work Infrastructure Ontario is doing to centralize the best of processes, procurement, methodologies, quantitative risk analysis and management to find better outcomes.

“We know intuitively and through physical evidence that it is hard doing big transit,” said Ho. “We have to mature our understanding of the inputs that go into predicting that something is going to be late.”

Ho spoke of the need to put aside anecdotal predictions in favour of data. Sound methodologies can use data science to predict the probability of a project being late and make informed decisions for the best version of cost contingencies.

The definition of success can pivot between cost, speed and quality depending on what’s most important, explained Ho. “Due diligence can suffer when time prevails above all else. Our commitment is to do better.”

RICS is continuing the dialogue with Infrastructure Ontario as we work to address industry challenges. In April, the RICS Summit Series Americas will include a summit in Toronto featuring RICS Connect, which aims to connect new talent with local employers. In May, RICS is holding a Construction Dispute Symposium in Toronto to discuss collaborative and adversarial approaches to dispute resolution in the construction sector.

Amie Silverwood

Amie Silverwood

Content Manager - Communications and Media

Toronto, Canada

RICS

Amie Silverwood is the Content Manager – Communications and Media for RICS in the Americas.

Read more from Amie