Can public-private partnerships bridge the infrastructure gap in Canada’s first nations?

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April 21, 2016 As Canada moves towards new and innovative ways to meet the increasing demands for infrastructure, First Nations continue to face a staggering infrastructure deficit of as much as $30 billion. An already dire situation is only complicated by an outdate procurement and financial model.

A report commissioned by The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships reveals there is a complex combination of circumstances, which could include the inflexibility of the Indian Act, existing government policies, or First Nations capacity issues contributing to the problem. The time has come to consider applying the benefits of public-private partnerships to address this particular infrastructure deficit.

The report entitled P3s: Bridging the First Nations Infrastructure Gap is intended to initiate a productive process to identify innovative ways and means, including P3s, to provide clean drinking water, safe, quality and affordable housing, and all season roads in and out of the most remote areas.

These are essential to establishing healthy and economically stable communities.

“Infrastructure should support our economies and grow our revenues so we can pay for infrastructure operation, maintenance and replacement,” said Manny Jules, Chief Commissioner, First Nations Tax Commission. “This report provides important recommendations about how First Nations can utilize a tool that is available to other levels of government to build high quality public infrastructure on-time and on budget.”

Grand Chief Warren White of Treaty Three says it is important for First Nations communities to have more options to address their infrastructure needs.

“The people of Treaty Three welcome the findings in the Report that would see new ways of procuring and constructing major infrastructure projects in our communities,” said Grand Chief White. “Our communities are in dire need of new infrastructure in housing, education and water and wastewater and we know that we need to have all of the infrastructure development tools available to us, like P3 and ASD, if we want to lessen the infrastructure deficit in Treaty Three communities.”

The report says the easiest solution to procuring First Nations infrastructure using the P3 model would be to leverage existing P3 procurement agencies.

“The Canadian P3 model is already a proven means of delivering high performance infrastructure to communities across the country,” said Mark Romoff, president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships. “CCPPP wants to help identify and eliminate the barriers that are preventing First Nations from taking advantage of modern and innovative approaches to infrastructure procurement.”

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