DAILY NEWS Dec 24, 2013 8:56 AM - 0 comments

Solutions to Canada's aging infrastructure under review

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CALGARY, Alta – A series of roundtables on Canada’s transportation policies for the 21st century, held earlier this year, determined it is time for the country to develop a new approach to repairing, building and financing aging infrastructure.

The six-city series of roundtable discussions have been documented in a “Summary Report on Transportation Policy Roundtables” and was recently released by the Van Horne Institute.

“Most Canadians instinctively know that an efficient, reliable and safe infrastructure is the 'great enabler' of our national, provincial and municipal economies,” said Peter Wallis, President and CEO of the Van Horne Institute. The roundtables sought the advice of leaders in the transportation sector from eight provinces on what they saw as the key policy questions for transportation in future.

“At busy travel times like the current holiday season, Canadians become much more acutely aware of the important role that the Canadian transportation system plays in their lives,” Wallis said.

Van Horne Senior Fellow, Brian Flemming, based the discussions at the roundtables on a 2012 “White Paper on Reforming Canada’s Transportation Policies for the 21st Century”.

“How we price infrastructure in Canada was discussed in every city. There was a clear consensus that continued reliance on unpredictable and 'lumpy' government assistance alone for funding infrastructure was not an option,” Wallis said. “Most participants agreed that new funding models will, more and more, have to rely on some form of tolling or real-time, dynamic, variable pricing to generate stable, localized revenue streams.”

“Moving Canadians from roads that have historically been 'free goods' or moving from massively-subsidized urban transit systems towards new pricing mechanisms that encourage more efficient use of infrastructure in Canada will take considerable political, business and bureaucratic leadership,” said Wallis.

The newly released Summary paper was co-authored by Flemming, Wallis and Philip Bazel, a Master’s student at the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy.

One of the subjects covered by the Summary paper is the question of whether Canada should --- as many other countries and sub national political units around the world have been doing --- be creating infrastructure banks, iBanks, to provide another “tool” in the “toolbox” of funding mechanisms for future infrastructure projects.

“The Van Horne Institute will be releasing a paper on this important question in January. We are hoping our Summary paper – plus the new one on iBanks in January­ – will ignite a national debate on whether iBanks are appropriate institutions for Canada in the 21st century,” Wallis said. Flemming is the author of the forthcoming iBank paper.

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