In the Canadian room of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, the humble conference room has seen its share of excitement over the years.
The 2012 ROMA/OGRA Combined Conference was no exception. Its keynote speaker was the Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario. Mr. McGuinty's appearance marked his 7th annual OGRA conference attendance. It was also significant in that it was his first address since his historic third consecutive electoral victory.
The message that the premier carried was simple: our greatest ambition is to build strong communities together. And build Ontario has. Despite sending $12.3 billion in taxes to the rest of the country, Ontario this year has built 760 bridges, 5, 500 km of road, 400 new schools, as well as other projects.
Acknowledging the pressing need to tackle the deficit, the Premier made frequent reference to the Drummond report.
However, Mr. McGuinty was clear: 'If we have to choose between Ontario Place, and place in Ontario, we will choose our workers'.
In closing remarks, the Premier left the attendees with this perspective to guide them: that everyone be inspired by past generations for the benefit of future generations. This generation was represented by wealth, stability, and progress, and it is these principles that will guide Ontario in its next era of prosperity.
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Key to successful municipal AFP/P3 projects workshop
AFP, otherwise known as Alternative Financing and Procurement, is turning the infrastructure world on its ear. This method of finance is less about the risk of a project, and more about the ownership of the asset, as retained by the sponsor. Because all the elements of a project are bundled together—the design, build, finance, and so on—there is less risk.
Infrastructure Ontario was established in 2005, and AFPs have been the backbone of its mandate. Having brought over 50 projects valued at $27 billion to market, and assisted in the financing of an additional $7 billion worth, Infrastructure Ontario continues to create sustainable infrastructure for the province.
Steve Rohacek, from IO, says a key aspect of AFPs is the risk transfer that they provide. If the project is delayed, as what often happens with construction, the cost is not passed along to the person who commissioned the project, but rather the contractor who is building it. Of course, there is still a catch: you have to take care of zoning, operations, and so on.
Rohacek stressed that the most critical element in the process is planning. Not to be confused with design, the planning of a project—and the degree that the planning was done to—carries the project to success and the final stages.
Above all else, the AFP process is something everyone should consider the next time they have a project.
Quick—what's the one thing that every elected officials hates? Red tape, good guess. Ask any official, be it at the municipal, provincial, and federal level, and they will all bemoan the state of communication. How red tape gets in the way of solution, and how policy can sometimes override common sense.
Everything was being discussed—the sustainability of small town police forces, to the crisis an aging population is bringing, the challenges that a hospital faces, and more.
Take, for example, the heating bill of a homeowner in Northern Ontario. This is one of the coldest areas in the province, and yet it costs $600 to $700 a month to heat a home. Many of these areas have been hit hard by the recession and other economic issues. The 10 per cent break on heating bills that homeowners in these towns were receiving was a godsend to many financially-strapped families, and yet the government wanted to take this away. By being able to express this, the chances of being heard are better, and a resolution can be discussed, rather that automatically implemented.
Or the case against blindly embracing solar energy. A zoning loophole allowed solar energy items on class 1 and 2 farmland. Great news for those with a stake in solar energy, but bad news for farmers and other land workers.
It was incredibly refreshing to see that all of these levels of government were coming together for an open forum for discussion, to attempt to bring resolution.