Canadian Consulting Engineer

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“Shovel ready” projects a dangerous term


The Canadian Policy Forum has released a pointed report about how Canada should proceed with their promised $750 billion in infrastructure investments.

“Building the Future: Strategic Infrastructure for Long-Term Growth,” was written by a team led by Drew Fagan for the forum and published October 13.  Implicating all three levels of government, the report suggests that Canada is a “laggard” when it comes to effectively building infrastructure and that “other countries manage their infrastructure needs in a much more sophisticated way.”

The executive summary says that the Liberal government’s announcement that it was doubling spending on infrastructure “was the easy part.”  The country now needs to adopt a much more sophisticated strategy of planning, delivering and operating infrastructure.

We shouldn’t be rushing into building without proper forethought and planning, says the report  (a sentiment that many consulting engineers will share).  “There is no term more dangerous than ‘shovel  ready’ when it comes to infrastructure,” it says. “Favoured by those looking to get an instant shot of construction-site adrenalin, shovel-ready projects often fail to deliver lasting strategic benefits. Infrastructure can only be done well when it is done with due deliberation.”

The report recommends that Canada should have an infrastructure agency to help governments prioritize spending. It says funding funding for infrastructure should rely less on public taxes and more on user fees, and that “in the right circumstances” the private sector should be allowed to build and operate it.

As much as $750 billion has been promised for spending on infrastructure over the next 10 years. “Canada can boast many internationally respected companies that are poised to deliver on this opportunity,” says the report.

Fagan is a former Ontario deputy minister of infrastructure. He is a fellow of the Canadian Policy Forum, which is an independent organization “dedicated to improving the quality of government in Canada through dialogue among leaders from all sectors of Canadian society.”

To read the report, click here.