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September 5, 2007

Public-Private-Partnerships

Infrastructure Ontario boss happy with progress

Says feedback has been good and stakeholders have confidence

After less than a year-and-a-half, Infrastructure Ontario, the provincial crown corporation created to oversee major construction projects has had a successful debut, according to its senior executive.

J. David Livingston, president and CEO, said the organization has not only built a large portfolio of construction projects, but has also gained the confidence of both stakeholders and the public at large.

“Generally, the feedback has been pretty good; the stakeholders are reasonably satisfied with the progress, and the employees as well,” Livingston said. “We have almost five billion dollars in capital workout there, and almost five million square feet that’s being constructed.”

In the crown corporation’s early days, there were concerns about an oversupply of bids coming from Infrastructure Ontario, but Livingston said any challenges that may have arisen from that can be successfully solved as a result of the organization’s public-private partnership.

“I have an inherent belief these are problems the private sector will figure out how to resolve. Our job is to present the business and get it done, and I think that as long as they see there’s going to be a consistent flow of work, they’re going to make the investments and do the things they need to get us there,” Livingston said. “So when we talk to the industry...I never get anything from them, other than ‘bring it on.’”

One of the major challenges to Infrastructure Ontario has come from the Ontario Health Coalition, a group dedicated to a one-tier healthcare system.

The coalition was concerned that Infrastructure Ontario was issuing secret tenders to private companies for construction of hospitals, but Livingston said his organization is completely transparent, and has a process that prevents any secrecy from going on.

“We have a fairness advisor on every project, making sure that we adhere to fair practices, and we have an auditor on every project, looking at the value for money calculation, and confirming that the money is there,” he said.

“I would say the process we go through is quite objective, and it’s vetted by credible third parties. So when people say there isn’t value for money, I don’t know where they’re getting that.”

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