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Civic Infrastructure Assets

Sewers, water treatment facilities, energy distribution systems, internet, telecommunications, roads, public transit, bridges, airports, ports, parkings, heritage buildings, social housing, schools, universities, libraries, parks.

Civic Infrastructure Assets

Our infrastructures are in need of a radical makeover.

Urban and rural infrastructures manage waste, provide clean water and electricity, ensure the mobility of people and things and produce spaces where we can gather, exercise, play and learn. These quintessential civic assets are foundational in the collective practice of everyday life. They protect our health and our safety and are essential in the formation of strong community ties.

In Canada, 60% of core public infrastructure is owned by municipal governments; a total value estimated at $1.1 trillion dollars, or about $80,000 per household. Inherited from the post-war era, most of these infrastructures have reached the end of their useful life and 35% of these assets are in need of urgent attention.

What’s more, Canadian cities increasingly have to deal with the seemingly intractable growth issues, greater transport pressures, new levels of waste, growing levels of environmental degradation and increasing demands to build more affordable housing. All this, deepens social and spatial inequalities, taking a toll on our global mental health. And while estimates for Canada’s infrastructure deficit average between $110B and $270B, we continue with a fiscal system that structurally under-funds our municipal governments (even when we all know the massive costs down the line of deferred maintenance).

And yet, even as we learn of the negative consequences of our infrastructural investments we continue to
finance old solutions to new problems.

How can we transform this infrastructure deficit into Canada’s largest ecological investment opportunity?

To leverage the way this upcoming capital will be directed and help set up (and scale) inclusive and ecological growth patterns, we need players that stimulate extensive third-party funding, visionary procurement strategies and, above all, an inspiring vision for smart infrastructures that will make our cities more resilient.

The rapid rise of the Internet of Things is paving the way for new relationships with municipal infrastructures: from smart bridges to other data-rich infrastructures, all the way to how we behave, interact and inhabit urban space. There is a real opportunity at hand for future infrastructures to contribute to a better quality of life for all citizens. But if we want smart cities, we need even smarter strategies to fund them sustainably.

In 2017, the creation of Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) signaled a political will to leverage “small” risk-mitigating public investment to increase innovation and catalyse non-government funding in exchange for a share of the future reward. Now, we can go even further, by designing procurement models and mechanisms that stimulate the entry of smaller, local and social businesses, foster the experimentation of new clean technologies and overall help redistribute the economic power of large infrastructure projects.

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