In terms of priorities, where would you rank the importance of continued infrastructure investment?
Investment in infrastructure is essential and Regina is falling behind. If the city is committed to densification and growing the downtown population, in accordance with the OCP, then we need to look at investing in streets, water and sewage infrastructure, and public transportation.
Would you support a multi-year or rolling capital infrastructure program?
The key is the City must budget consistently to ensure existing infrastructure is maintained and replaced as necessary. This must be a city-wide plan and no dependent on local residents agreeing to and paying directly.
Larger projects like the stadium and wastewater treatment plant are multi year and must be budgeted as such.
It is complicated since the City does not have all the revenue sources necessary to resolve the infrastructure deficit and is dependent on irregular grants from senior governments. While working within these constraints, the City must continually press for predictable grants and secure revenue sources like a larger portion of the gas tax.
Would I support multi-year or rolling capital infrastructure programs? Yes.
Do you support the use of P3’s for large municipal infrastructure projects?
My support rests with traditional design and build approaches to infrastructure development, which is how much of Canada’s world-class public infrastructure was constructed in the first place. It’s clear that the public sector can borrow at rates below that available to the private sector and that the traditional model is effective. Obviously the private sector would play a critical role in the actual construction process. Still, it’s worth looking at some authoritative evidence on the matter. After looking at 75 projects over 10 years and the claimed savings due to risk transfer the Ontario Auditor General wrote:
In our discussions with the external advisers, they confirmed that the probabilities and cost impacts are not based on any empirical data that supports the valuation of the risks, but rather on their professional judgment and experience. (Report 2014 p. 2013)
Are you in favour of local government competing with local business?
Depends. I’m against the outsourcing and subcontracted municipal services, especially when workers who are paid less than their public sector counterparts and are forced to shoulder the burden of cost savings. If the public sector can offer quality services that pay well and at a lower cost, then I have no objections to governments competing with local business.
To ensure transparency would you support the implementation of an independent cost analysis, comparing the cost to the taxpayer of the municipality self-performing work vs publicly tendering major work?
Yes, but I would create standards for this type of analysis. For starters, organizations that are known advocates and lobbyists for P3s, subcontracting, and other private interests would not be permitted to conduct this work. My preference would be for neutral, third parties who are agreed upon by Council and community members. Reports and methodologies used as part of this analysis would be made public immediately upon release. Furthermore, any and all contracts and bids submitted to the city administration or Council related to large, public infrastructure projects would be made public as well. This is part of a broader accountability and transparency standards that I would like to see developed.
How do you plan to engage industry in the delivery of the City’s infrastructure program?
The City needs to develop a long-term infrastructure plan. The City should discuss with the industry, available capacity and how to increase that capacity. The City has insufficient but relatively stable funding sources and should be a reliable partner. The City and the industry can work jointly to encourage senior governments to provide stable funding and revenue.
Would you support a Best Value approach to procuring the City’s construction services, and what does that look like?
As I understand it, best value means criteria other than just lowest cost. That includes things like the contractor’s safety record, financial capacity, experience, and track-record (quality, timeliness). I would also add the contractors labour relations record, compliance with a living wage policy, consistency with the city’s environmental goals (Calgary’s latest wastewater treatment plant will get 15% of it energy from wind power). Here, the city must look not just at each individual project but how it contributes to the city’s economic capacity and social goals. It also includes examining the total value of a project over its entire lifecycle, even if it means paying slightly more during the initial construction phrase. My first point here is that the criteria must be clearly spelled out before going to tender and if the lowest cost bidder is not accepted the city must be able to provide a clear explanation consistent with the established criteria.
Based on these criteria, do I support the Best Value approach? Yes.