Public-Private Partnerships an option for building infrastructure in Toronto: Mayor Tory
Mayor John Tory said the city will examine making more use of Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) for future transportation projects, but insisted it’s only one option in addressing the city’s infrastructure deficit.
P3s have grown increasingly popular among governments because they shift the burden of delivering major construction projects such as subway lines to the private sector. Recent projections put P3 investment as representing $92 billion in investment in the national economy. But critics say they end up costing the public purse more money over the long term and exclude unionized labour from bidding on lucrative construction contracts.
Speaking after a keynote address to launch the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s Transportation Summit Monday, Nov. 16, Tory agreed looking toward P3s as a vehicle for speeding up construction on transportation plans represented a policy change for the city.
“But there is no ideological basis to this,” Tory said. “There is no suggestion 100 per cent all the time (construction) should be done under this model. We will definitely look at P3s for all projects to see if it’s appropriate for restoring an environment where we get things done on time and on budget and restore public, and eventually get the transit built.”
In regards to the transit plan that helped get him elected, Tory insisted he hasn’t read any reports indicating cost estimates or construction challenges for SmartTrack, saying ongoing studies haven’t yielded any recommendations.
Tory also denied media reports that indicate costs for SmartTrack are already known. It is expected to exceed preliminary estimates of $8 billion because of the expense of building a “western spur” to the Airport Corporate Centre in Mississauga.
“I haven’t seen a draft or extract, not one word,” said Tory about ongoing planning and ridership modeling studies underway for SmartTrack.
“We’re doing the studies to address some of the issues on the western part of SmartTrack so we will know what the implications are, engineering challenges and the costs, and we have said once the studies are finished…they will be made public and they will form part of the discussion.
“But this notion there’s a report floating around that everyone’s seen is just not correct,”
Tory – who in his near 30-minute address to some 350 summit attendees at the Westin Harbour Castle hotel urged his fellow elected officials not to use transit building to score political points – defended releasing the SmartTrack proposal absent of comprehensive study during the 2014 election.
Whatever its conclusions, he said he was confident the studies will provide strong evidence the route is essential for improving transit reliability in the city and surrounding region.
“I’m going to tell you SmartTrack with utilization of existing rail corridors in Toronto is going to be done, and so if we have to make some adjustments we will have that discussion when the reports are submitted,” he said.
City planning officials are expected to release their SmartTrack study findings in 2016.