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National, News

Building First Nations infrastructure

Posted on November 6, 2017

With an infrastructure deficit pegged at $30-$40 billion, First Nations communities across Canada are in desperate need of new ways to narrow the gap, including an uptick in the use of P3 projects.

In the opening keynote address of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships 25th annual conference, Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott discussed the work done by the Liberal government to build and rehabilitate infrastructure in First Nations communities. However, she stressed the need for greater involvement from the P3 industry, and how its expertise can drastically improve the quality of life in these communities.

In her remarks, Philpott cited water/wastewater and health care as two areas where P3 expertise in design innovation and risk assessment can play a critical role in infrastructure development in Indigenous communities.

Bundling a difference maker

The recent success of P3 projects involving the bundling of multiple projects within a single infrastructure sector opens a new door fir infrastructure in Indigenous communities. Philpott recognized that the ability to bundle projects in sectors like fibreoptic, water/wastewater, and education could provide a chance to get core infrastructure built sooner, and in a more affordable cost model for these communities.

There is also a push to look for opportunities to address energy supply issues in these communities. Diesel, which has to be brought in by rail, marine or air to these communities, is an expensive proposition, not to mention the negative environmental impacts burning diesel causes. Shifting to renewable energy, be it wind, solar, geothermal, or biomass, presents a real opportunity for positive infrastructure development in these communities.

“It is a critical area,” said Philpott. “We certainly have a goal to be able to phase out diesel in so many communities in the far north that are highly dependent upon it. And there are, in fact, excellent models out there of public-private partnerships that are working to address those gaps.”

The P3 2017 conference runs November 6th and 7th at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Toronto. For more information, visit p3-2017.ca.

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