Report: Infrastructure agency would advise federal government on mega-projects

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Over the next 10 years when the federal government aims to deliver $120 billion of infrastructure investment and boost the economy, it’s important to establish a centre of excellence to support big decisions on the country’s future mega-projects.

So says infrastructure expert Matti Siemiatycki, University of Toronto associate professor of geography and planning, in a report commissioned by the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO).

In his latest report, “Implementing a Canadian Infrastructure Investment Agency” (CIIA), Siemiatycki proposes establishing an arm’s-length agency to advise on how to allocate funding for the country’s largest projects.

“The CIIA would act as a national centre of excellence supporting rigorous project planning and evaluation, procurement best practices and project financing under a single roof,” Siemiatycki says.

Among his recommendations, the CIIA would:

  • Have an advisory role – not decision-making capacity.
  • Develop standard evidence-based project evaluation tools to assess mega-projects with capital values of $100 million or more by private/government backers seeking federal funding.
  • Create high standards for transparency, accountability and capacity building.

“Based on what we’ve seen with similar models in Australia and the U.K., the CIIA would have to be independent from direct government intervention so that it could provide unbiased advice based on the best technical evidence available,” says Siemiatycki, who authored the report as a follow-up to “Creating an Effective Canadian Infrastructure Bank” (CIB), which was released in February.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau wrote a letter of thanks to RCCAO for commissioning the CIB research and encouraged the alliance to continue its engagement with finance and infrastructure officials.

RCCAO executive director Andy Manahan says that the CIIA would ensure the government’s commitment is delivered effectively.

“This could be the most crucial period for infrastructure investment in Canada’s history. The CIIA would be an important part of ensuring we make more strategic infrastructure investment decisions,” Manahan says.

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