Update on the Status of Infrastructure: Building Ontario
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- October 20, 2022 Update on the Status of Infrastructure: Building Ontario
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November 7, 2022
The Empire Club of Canada Presents
Update on the Status of Infrastructure Building Ontario
Chairman: Sal Rabbani, President, Board of Directors, Empire Club of Canada
Kelly Jackson, Past Board President & Board Director, Empire Club of Canada, Vice-President, External Affairs and Professional Learning, Humber College, Empire Club of Canada
Distinguished Guest Speakers
The Honourable Kinga Surma, Minister of Infrastructure, Province of Ontario
Michael Lindsay, President & CEO, Infrastructure Ontario
Jean - Louis Servranckx, CEO, Aecon Group Inc.
John M. Peevers, Director, Community, Media Relations & Economic Development, Bruce Power
Head Table Guests
Tony Di Battista, President, Clearway Construction Inc.
Lal Wanniappa, Principal, Lal Wanniappa Consulting
Joseph Mancinelli, International Vice-President & Regional Manager, Central and Eastern Canada, LiUNA
Isaac Olowolafe, General Partner, Dream Affordable Housing; Founder, Dream Legacy Foundation, General Partner, BKR Capital
Ajit Someshwar, Chairman, CSI Group of Companies, Board Governor & Past Chair, Canada India Foundation, Canada Indian Foundation
Bhupinder Singh Khalsa, Founder & CEO, Ranee Impex, Board Governor, Canada India Foundation, Canada Indian Foundation
It is a great honour for me to be here at the Empire Club of Canada today, which is arguably the most famous and historically relevant speaker’s podium to have ever existed in Canada. It has offered its podium to such international luminaries as Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Audrey Hepburn, the Dalai Lama, Indira Gandhi, and closer to home, from Pierre Trudeau to Justin Trudeau; literally generations of our great nation's leaders, alongside with those of the world's top international diplomats, heads of state, and business and thought leaders.
It is a real honour and distinct privilege to be invited to speak to the Empire Club of Canada, which has been welcoming international diplomats, leaders in business, and in science, and in politics. When they stand at that podium, they speak not only to the entire country, but they can speak to the entire world.
Welcome Address by Sal Rabbani, President, Board of Directors, Empire Club of Canada
Good afternoon. Welcome to the 119th season of the Empire couple of Canada. To our in person attendees joining us at the Royal York in Toronto, and our virtual audience joining in live or on demand, thank you for your support. Our mandate at the Empire Club is to engage and advance the dialogue on what matters most to Canadians. To accomplish this mandate, we must ask thoughtful questions, offer our insights, and lead discussions on social media, in our homes, and at public forums such as this one. Your participation is the path to positively influencing Canada's institutions and thought leadership. Welcome. My name is Sal Rabbani, and I'm the President of the Board of Directors of the Empire Club of Canada.
To formally begin this afternoon, I want to start by acknowledging that we're gathering today on the traditional and treaty lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the homelands of the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wyandot Peoples. We encourage everyone tuning in today to learn more about the traditional territory on which you work and live.
Turning to today's program, I want to recognize the Empire Club's board of directors, staff and volunteers. They are instrumental in bringing us together for this opportunity to connect, more importantly, a timely discussion on the infrastructure of Ontario. Thank you for your contributions. I also want to acknowledge our special guests sitting with us today. The Honourable Paul Calandra, Minister of Long-Term Care, the Honourable Prabmeet Sarkaria, President of the Treasury Board, Amarjot Sandhu, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Infrastructure, Vijay Thanigasalam, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Infrastructure, Robin Martin, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health. Welcome, it's a pleasure to have you join us today.
The Empire Club of Canada is a not-for-profit organization, and we'd like to recognize our sponsors who generously support the club and make these events possible and complimentary for our online viewers to attend. Thank you to our lead event sponsors AECON, Bruce Power; thank you to our VIP reception sponsor LiUNA; and thank you to our supporting sponsors Cubic Transportation Systems, EllisDon, Gannett Fleming, the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, Torys LLP, WSP, and Woodbine. Thank you also to our season sponsor, Bruce Power.
For those of you joining us online, if you require technical assistance, please start a conversation with our team using the chat button on the right-hand side of your screen. We're accepting questions from the audience for our speakers, and please undertake to scan that QR code found on your program booklet, or through the Q&A for those online on the online video player. It is now my pleasure to invite Jean-Louis Servranckx, CEO of AECON, to provide the opening remarks. Jean-Louis, welcome
Opening Remarks by Jean-Louis Servranckx, CEO, AECON
Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for the introduction, Sal. Thank you to the Empire Club for hosting this event today. AECON, with its 15,000 employees striving every day to make us number one Canadian infrastructure company, is proud to be a lead sponsor today. Infrastructure vitality in any given territory is driven by strong demographics and sound financial capacity. Ontario has both. But in addition, through you, as Minister, and Michael, as the head of IO, proactively anticipating issues and finding the right solution has been remarkable during the last years.
First point, fighting to get infrastructure construction recognized from the first day of the pandemic in March 2020 as an essential service was key. You trusted our companies to handle it safely. This is what we did. Not one single fatality in Ontario among our workers during those times. And that saved the industry, while allowing us to continue our work on critical projects. With your support—and I have to add, because I can see in front of me Joe Mancinelli from LiUNA, I mean, your team has been also remarkable during all those times, thank you for this—with your support and a sense of partnership between us, we all did it.
Point number two: understanding the trends due to growing supply chain constraints and unprecedented price volatility toward more collaborative and flexible procurement processes, and then implementing them quickly. You, Minister, and your team did it.
Point number three: encouraging a constant and fruitful dialogue between your ministry, your agencies, and Canadian infrastructure companies, in order to help us be aware and prepared for the future challenges to come. You, Minister, and your team did it. Thank you for this.
It's now my pleasure to invite Minister Surma to deliver today's much anticipated update. Before doing so, the Minister of Infrastructure and Infrastructure Ontario have produced a brief video to show off some of the amazing work and accomplishments that have taken place over the last few years, which will set the stage for today's conversation. Let's take a look now.
The Honourable Kinga Surma, Minister of Infrastructure, Province of Ontario
The past few years have presented significant challenges worldwide, Ontario's construction sector being no exception. The pandemic not only increased pressures on the sector, but uncovered new and emerging issues such as inflation, labour and supply chain shortages, and market volatility, that have all posed significant barriers to delivering projects. Despite these challenges, we never slowed down, and kept shovels in the ground on our priority projects, redefining what it means to be resilient. By adapting to market shifts and creating innovative and agile solutions, we kept procurements on track, reached financial close on projects, and introduced new projects, like the Ontario Line Subway, the South Niagara Hospital, and the Grandview Children's Centre.
Michael Lindsay, President & CEO, Infrastructure Ontario
As we continue to build for tomorrow, we reflect upon our recent accomplishments. In 2020, Infrastructure Ontario completed its 50th healthcare project. One of these healthcare projects, Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, is the first net new hospital in the province in a generation, providing state-of-the-art care for patients and their families. During the pandemic, we introduced Ontario's Accelerated Build Program to address the shortage of long-term care homes, and the pressing needs of the healthcare sector. By utilizing hospital-owned lands and techniques to accelerate construction, we were able to deliver new LTC homes much faster than by traditional delivery models, ensuring that Ontario's most vulnerable have access to the quality care that they deserve and need.
The Hon. Kinga Surma
We've also made some great headway on our four priority transit projects in the Greater Toronto Area. We recently procured seven subway packages, and are making rapid progress on the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension, with the two tunnel boring machines, Renny and Rexy, digging more than six kilometres of tunnels for the future line that will make life more convenient for residents. We’re bringing access to high-speed internet services to every corner of the province by the end of 2025.
To expedite our efforts and quickly connect unserved and underserved properties, we created a new innovative and competitive procurement process. We're well on track to closing the digital divide and connecting the remaining communities.
The Hon. Kinga Surma
Our experience throughout the pandemic has demonstrated that we can rise to meet new emerging challenges. As we look ahead and keep shovels in the ground, moving forward on thousands of projects, continued collaboration and partnerships are crucial to Ontario's success. Together, we'll continue to build Ontario.
[End of Video]
The Hon. Kinga Surma
Hello, hi everyone. Thank you for being here with me today. It's always nice to share a stage with Michael Lindsay, CEO of Infrastructure Ontario. Today, alongside my colleagues, we’ll provide you with an update on the status of infrastructure in Ontario, and the government's ongoing commitments and initiatives to build the province. You may recall, not too long ago, this commitment was a key platform item in the June election. On June 2nd, the people spoke. They sent a clear message that they want our government to continue to build. The projects we build together are critical to the quality of life of Ontarians. When a new road, highway, transit line, or a bridge is built, we are helping hardworking Ontarians get home to their families safer and faster. When new infrastructure is installed to improve access to high-speed internet, we provide families with the opportunity to work and educate their children from home. And when we build hospitals and long-term care homes, we're ensuring our most vulnerable members are provided the care they deserve.
I was very honoured when Premier Ford asked me to return as the Minister of Infrastructure. We accomplished so much in the last mandate, and I'm determined to finish the job. I know the past few years have posed significant challenges for everyone; and the construction industry was no exception. In this short time, new issues emerged that shocked the industry with unexpected long-term implications. From port delays, aircraft shortages, and halts in manufacturing, the COVID 19 pandemic posed significant new challenges for supply chains worldwide. Whether it was increases in shipping and material costs, high inflation, market volatility, a labour market crisis, or new consumption patterns, infrastructure projects have faced significant barriers. We cannot ignore these challenges and the current reality. The labour shortages, stressed supply chains, and economic uncertainty that are seen and felt worldwide, require a response. They are prompting us to become even more innovative when building. We remain committed and steadfast to building the infrastructure this province needs now, and for the future; recognizing the challenges I have just mentioned will have impacts on construction. Let me be clear in our assurances to all of you: we will get the job done. We are committed to building Ontario.
Your partnership, innovative ideas, and dedicated skilled workforce, helped our province continue to build during one of the most uncertain times in our recent history. And I know we can count on all of you moving forward, despite the challenges the industry is facing. Whether you're a contractor, supplier, or manufacturer, you play a critical role in the infrastructure sector, and the government appreciates the work you do to enrich communities across our great province. By working together, we've forged ahead on our plan to build Ontario. Over the next decade, we're investing more than 158 billion dollars to support the construction, modernization, and rehabilitation of key infrastructure projects; things like schools, hospitals, long-term care homes, public transit, roads and highways, and of course high-speed internet.
Ontario has a strong history of success with delivering major projects. And with the help of our agency, Infrastructure Ontario, and Michael Lindsay's leadership, we continue to develop new and innovative delivery models such as Accelerated Build and progressive procurement approaches, to respond to changing market conditions. To keep our focus on getting more shovels in the ground, we will continue adapting our procurement and contracting processes, and embracing sequencing strategies that allow us to deliver our infrastructure projects as promised. Our proactive and innovative approaches allow us to address these issues and maintain strong market confidence and participation. For example, the development of progressive procurements has allowed Ontario to maintain competitive bid environments on complex projects by working with project hosts to more accurately price input costs and risk premiums. We engage, we adapt, and we keep pushing forward.
In four years, we have made significant progress on many of our projects. In 2019, under Premier Ford's leadership, the government and Infrastructure Ontario released the biggest project pipeline in Ontario's history. The plan included 32 projects in pre-procurement and procurement at the time and totaled more than 65 billion dollars. Since then, we have been relentless in bringing those projects to market and refreshing that pipeline with additional new government priorities. IO has now brought an additional 24 projects to market and awarded contracts or selected partners for 15 projects. Our most recent market update in May lists 38 projects in the pipeline. For example, to improve traffic flow, reduce congestion, strengthen the economy, and move people and goods safely and efficiently, we supported the 10-kilometre expansion of Highway 427 that opened to the public in September 2021.
The pandemic also underscored the dire need for investments in hospital infrastructure, a sector that had been neglected for too long. Over the next 10 years, Premier Ford has committed more than 40 billion dollars in hospital infrastructure to support increasing capacity in hospitals, building new health care facilities, and renewing existing hospitals and community health centres. With greater hospital capacity, our healthcare system will be better equipped to manage unforeseen circumstances like what we faced the last couple of years and take care of our ageing population. To support the unique needs of residents in East Toronto, we invested in the redevelopment and modernization of Michael Garron Hospital. As part of the hospital's redevelopment project, our government's investment supported the construction of the new Ken and Marilyn Thompson Patient Care Centre, as well as upgrades to the existing facility. The hospital recently celebrated the interim completion of the patient care centre, and I'm excited to share that doors are set to open in early 2023.
To ensure our most vulnerable, our seniors, are taken care of with dignity, we are investing heavily in LTC homes across the province. Through Infrastructure Ontario's work and consulting with stakeholders, our province has developed the Accelerated Build Pilot Program that leverages hospital-owned land and accelerates construction techniques to deliver urgently needed homes more quickly in urban areas, where costs are high, and the availability of land is in short supply. After only 13 months of construction, Lakeridge Health announced the completion and opening of its new Long-Term Care Home in Ajax. To put this into perspective, prior to the Accelerated Build model, it would have taken an average of eight years to build a new LTC home.
Now more than ever, we know that building public transit systems are critical to the province’s success. In 2019, we released our transit plan for the Greater Toronto Area which includes our Ontario Line, three-stop Scarborough Subway Extension, Eglinton Crosstown West Extension, and Yonge North. The historic transit expansion plan will bring more reliable transit to residents and is one of the ways we're preparing for increased community growth. I'm excited to share that two tunnel boring machines, Rennie and Rexy, are already digging their way for the future Eglinton Crosstown West Extension line. Rennie and Rexy have already made substantial progress on the future line, tunnelling more than 2500 metres underground from Renforth Station to the future Martin Grove Station. This 28-billion-dollar investment will bring more than transit, it will bring housing along with it, through our Transit-Oriented Communities Program. By reimagining the relationship between transit and housing, we are tackling two challenges at once: lack of transit and lack of housing supply. TOC’s will create vibrant, sustainable, complete mixed-use communities that will bring more housing, including affordable housing options, jobs, retail and commercial spaces, and public amenities at transit stations along our GO rail system and Subway Expansion Plan. We've released our plans for seven stations, two along Yonge North, and five along Ontario Line South, and we continue to make progress on other stations.
Our infrastructure investments and successes are only part of our story. The construction industry is one of the largest industries in Ontario. In order to build and accelerate progress on much-needed infrastructure, our government is constantly working with the brilliant minds and hard workers in communities across the province—many of whom are in this room today—to keep projects moving forward.
As many of you are aware, our province is facing a growing labour shortage in skilled trades. To respond to the growing market needs and address the labour shortage, my colleague Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, has been working tirelessly to address the needs of the sector. To support building the pipeline of Ontario’s skilled workers, our government developed the Skilled Trades Strategy that is breaking the stigma and attracting more young people to the sector, simplifying the system, making it easier for people to enter the skilled trades, and encouraging employer participation in apprenticeships. And to build on Ontario's 288-million-dollar investment in the Skilled Trades Strategy, we're investing an additional 90 million dollars over three years to encourage more youth to pursue rewarding careers in the trades. As Premier Ford said in his address at the annual ROMA conference in January, we can't wait, and won't wait any longer to address the crisis, and we will deliver the transit and housing options that all Ontarians need.
I want to thank the President of our Treasury Board, Prab Sarkaria, who is with us today. Minister Sarkaria is the lead on our multi-year planning and budgeting process, and he has played a fundamental role in supporting our government's investments in building infrastructure. I also want to thank Paul Calandra, our Minister of Long-Term Care. His relentless efforts to increase long-term care beds and facilities in Ontario are critical as we continue to care for seniors. I want to thank my PA, Mr. Amarjot Sandhu, MPA Vijay Thanigasalam, who are here today. They are both such hard-working parliamentary assistants, who help me every day at the Ministry of Infrastructure. And, of course, Robin Martin, who is the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health, who was a solid rock, helping the Minister of Health guide our way through COVID.
Building Ontario is not something that we can do alone. It's our collective responsibility. The people are depending on us. As we look ahead and keep shovels in the ground moving forward on thousands of projects, your continued collaboration and partnership is critical to Ontario success. Let's continue to work together, and let's continue to build Ontario. Thank you. And I would like to now invite Michael Lindsay to the podium.
Colleagues, friends, distinguished ministers, honourable ministers, I'm truly humbled to be at the lectern in front of you with this august crowd. It is so very good to see you all in person. I've always wanted a job that had a resonant public impact. But I remember when I was first getting into the public sector, I wanted some mentorship. I went to people, and I said, you know, what are the conditions for success that ultimately allow a public servant to do good and great things? And all of my mentors were unequivocal. They said, the thing that you need is you need a minister who wants to lead, who gets what you're trying to do, and is absolutely relentless in trying to help you do it. And in Minister Surma, I certainly have that. And so, on behalf of Infrastructure Ontario, Minister, thank you very much for your leadership.
I want to echo the thanks that have already been offered to all of the hosts and the sponsors of this event. We, I think, better than any other jurisdiction in the world—and I'm going to come back to this—find ways to talk to each other candidly about what has to be done, and how we're going to do it. And events like this, and organizations like the Empire Club, play an indispensable role in doing that. So, Sal, to you and your team, thank you very much, we appreciate it. I'd like to recognize a few people from my organization that are in the room today, that includes Ahmed Shehata and Mark Romoff, the Board of Directors of Infrastructure Ontario, as well as members of my top team, David Ho, Toni Rossi, Amar Singh, Christine Tekker, Jeff Parker, and Alan Findlay. These people are indefatigable civil servants, and they also have a very important job today—and that is to pull the fire alarm if my remarks start to go south. Thank you very much for being with us.
I want to leave as much time as I possibly can for the Q&A, and the Minister's already done the thing. Really, all I actually want to do is offer one thanks, and four commitments. The thanks is this: everywhere I go in the continent—and I'm privileged to do that on behalf of the people of the province of Ontario—I find jurisdictions that are looking to Ontario for inspiration and example. Together, we have created the jurisdiction, with a reputation for transparency, dependability, and innovation when it comes to delivering public works. Everybody is trying to do what Ontario has been doing, my friends, for these past 10 to 15 years. And that is a function of our collaboration, as the Minister said. It's our ability to talk to one another about the way in which we do things, but also to hear some difficult truths, to internalize what those are, and to reimagine the best way to ultimately bring these assets, not only to market and to delivery, but also to maintain them, for the good of the people of Ontario. It hasn't been Infrastructure Ontario, or the Ministry of Infrastructure, or the Government of Ontario that's created that dynamic, it is all of us together. And I hope that everybody appreciates just how special that is, and how much people around the world are trying to emulate us. So, please give yourselves a hand for all that you do for infrastructure in Ontario.
I also want to say thank you for all that the industry did during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jean-Louis, de tellement généreux, but it was in fact the industry that rose to the challenge, kept building, delivered five hospitals in the teeth of the pandemic, delivered temporary hospital facilities outside of four others, pressed new long-term care into service, and continued to give economic vitality and security to thousands and thousands of Ontarians, even as those people served their fellow Ontarians, by creating this incredibly important infrastructure. So, my thanks, again, is to all of you, for the partnership that made that possible. I'm very, very proud of it.
Here are my four commitments, and the Minister has already touched on some of them. First, you can count on Infrastructure Ontario and the Ministry of Infrastructure to continue to use a breadth of contract approaches and models to deliver our work. We're going to pick the right tool for the right job. And I think the recent experience of the last couple of years shows us how success can be a part of any contract form or structure that you choose to use. Whether it's a DVF associated with tunnelling the Eglinton West, or it's a construction management at risk contract for a rapid build LTC facility, we have, I believe, the right ability to talk to one another, and to identify the best way in which to deliver works. And that conversation needs to continue, and I promise you it shall.
Second, we're gonna continue to be as sophisticated as we possibly can, in respect of the management of risk. It dominates conversation in our industry, I know. First and foremost, we're going to continue to work with this government, who, under their leadership, has actually done much to eliminate some of the risks associated with major projects, through the building transit fast-tracked, the building broadband fast-tracked, we're trying to take these projects and make them less risky by definition. And then I promise you, we are going to work together, Infrastructure Ontario and our market, to better understand for risks like hyperinflation, geotechnical condition, what is a fair assignation of those risks as between parties, the best way to have contingency for them, and the best way to mitigate them collectively moving forward. And much of what we've done about adopting progressive forms of delivery is all with an eye to try to create space and time for us in our market to have thoughtful conversations along these dimensions.
Third commitment, we're going to double down on the lessons that we've learned through our Rapid Build Program—not only rapid build, by the way, but rapid procurement, we forget that too a competitive procurement in 8 to 10 weeks—the lessons that we've learned, not only about those processes, but the viability of modular and prefabricated approaches, standardized approaches to assets, are things that we're going to play forward in the LTC space, in the health space, in the justice space, and beyond. That's the innovation bit that I was talking about before, and again, I think Ontario is leading the way.
Last commitment, we want to make sure that all of our assets are born digital. The Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, which you saw in the video, is Ontario's first net new hospital in a generation, and also happens to be Canada's first smart hospital. And we have long past the inflection point of thinking of that kind of social infrastructure—or indeed any infrastructure—as being purely about bricks and mortar. The resonant public impact that these assets have is as much a function of the systems and technology that are a part of these assets. And we want to continuously do better to make sure that, as we create these assets, they're built for the digital world. And we're exceptionally proud to be working with the Minister under her leadership, to continue to ensure that every Ontarian has access to high-speed internet that they can use to learn, to get care, and ultimately to work.
Those are my commitments, my friends. And I'm very, very appreciative for all the help that I know that you will provide me, my team, and this government. Let's go get it done together. With that, Minister, I'd like to invite you back up, and Kelly I'd like to invite you up, too, to help moderate. Thanks very much everybody.
QUESTION & ANSWER
Kelly Jackson, Past Board President & Board Director, Empire Club of Canada
Okay, are we all good mic’ed up, everyone can hear us okay?
I hope so.
The Hon. Kinga Surma
Can you hear me?
I can still hear Coldplay, too.
Yeah, a little karaoke maybe? Well, hello, everybody. And I just want to, first of all, say it's great to see this room, it looks beautiful. A lot of great looking people here, and a lot of super intelligent people here, and the energy has been palpable, because I think everybody is still so grateful that we can be in person, that we can connect, that we can talk to each other in a different way. For those who may not know, I had the opportunity last year to do a virtual conversation with Minister Surma and Mr. Lindsay. And so, that was sort of the idea, that I come to moderate today to sort of say, one year later, where are we? Because it was a pretty crazy year. And yet, at the same time, as we saw from the video, relentless focus, huge contributions from industry, means we see so many achievements that have happened in Ontario. So, I think just to start off, you know, Minister, do you want to talk a little bit about that ongoing experience of working through the pandemic, and sort of some of the achievements or some of the stories behind some of those things that we saw on the video?
The Hon. Kinga Surma
Yeah, and thank you to the team for preparing that video, because in infrastructure it's always good to have visuals, so that you can actually see the projects come to life. Being a minister during COVID—I'm looking at my colleagues at the table—it was an extremely difficult time. It was obviously extremely stressful. We were very much focused on the health and safety of Ontarians always, but we wanted to continue building. We wanted to make sure that we can take care of our seniors, ramp up that long-term care capacity, continue to build hospitals, during a very uncertain time, so that people can get the care they need.
And so, we sort of adapted. We went into progressive procurement models, but also had a lot of success with our Rapid Delivery Pilot Project with LTC. Being in front of Lakeridge Health, it took 13 months to build that home. We truly showed what Ontario was capable of doing. And now, patients will be in there being taken care of. And we want to expand on this program, and continue using it in LTC and, quite possibly, in other sectors. But it's nice to have those success stories, because it was such a difficult time for people. And to be able to show Ontarians what government, our agencies, our partners, are capable of when we work together, I think is really important.
Yeah. If I could add, Kelly...
...just some of the micro stories that went with continuing to progress jobs were deeply inspirational. So, just to take two, both of which had the exact same counterparty that we had to work with, which was the Port of Montreal. So, we've recently completed a rapid expansion of two correctional facilities in Thunder Bay and Kenora—also done on a volumetric modular basis, rapid build basis—and Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, which we've already talked about. We needed the full support of government, literally, to interact with the Province of Québec at the highest levels in the early days of the COVID 19 pandemic, back when the Port of Montreal was just a snarl, right? In order to be able to free the modules—and the doors, in the case of Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital—in order to be able to make it to site and open up these facilities. So again, it was a total coordinated effort. And some of the day-to-day things that we had to do were really have that level of specificity. And again, it's a credit, I think, to everybody, that we were able to do it.
The Hon. Kinga Surma
And when COVID first broke—and I remember this very clearly—in March, and obviously government had very difficult decisions to make, close schools for a period of time and so forth. We felt it so incredibly important to continue to engage with our partners to make sure that construction continued. Because the people were depending on us, and they needed us to continue building those hospitals and long-term care homes. So, I'm very grateful for everything that you've all done to get us to this point, because it was it was a challenging time. But I think we really were resilient.
One of the things that we all experienced during the pandemic, of course, was the ability to connect virtually. So, as much as it's great to be here in person, I also want to acknowledge that we've got many people who are tuned in today and watching this remotely from wherever was convenient for them. And I want to remind those individuals that if you're interested to submit a question—this is why I've got my phone up here, because I'm able to see what the audience questions are—so if you're at home, below your viewer, on your screen, you should see a question box. And if you're in the room and you'd like to submit a question, as Sal mentioned earlier, you can scan the QR code on your program.
One of the things that I always like to ask about when I get the opportunity to sit down with the Minister is around skill shortages and labour shortages. And that's because, you know, in my professional life, I work at Humber College, and we're always working with industry, and always thinking about this issue around talent. And I, you know, thinking about our conversation last year, we talked a little bit about this. And I know one of the things you said last year was that it really takes a whole of government approach. And I’m just wondering if you could speak a little bit more to some of the things that you're seeing that are happening across the board in government right now around this issue.
The Hon. Kinga Surma
Yes, and this is, I would say, a global issue. We're not the only jurisdiction that's facing this challenge. When we are looking at our pipeline and all of the projects that our government prioritizes, and preparing them for procurement, of course, and planning to build them, we are actively engaging with the Ministry of Labour constantly, every step of the way, to identify, ‘these are the projects we're building, we need to make sure that we have the workforce to do it.’ So, we're actively working with Monte. As you know, Monte is making significant investments to get more young people and get people into skilled trades, which I spoke about. And we're also educating young children in our school system as well, that this is very much a good career path; it's an option for people. This was something that really wasn't spoken about, certainly not when I was in school. We were always told to go to college and university—which, of course, is important—but jobs in the skilled trades are incredible. You get to help build this province, they’re well-paying jobs, you get to move up and expand your career. And so, the Minister of Education is making sure that young children know that this is a career path that they could go down. Bringing in workers into the schools to show them what skilled trades are, I think, is really important in terms of grooming that workforce down the line.
Yeah. And if I broaden that to be just a broad question about market capacity, Kelly. I mean, this is back to where transparency, dependability, the pipeline—as the Minister says—becomes so important. And I trust that people have seen that in the last couple of years, what we're trying to do is continuously provide greater specificity, and more visibility onto the kinds of resources that we're going to need, and when. So, it's not just our major projects now, the future on our pipeline, but it's also our technical advisors, our planning, designing, conformance consultants. And we've started to highlight, you know, by region in the province, the major capital repairs that we think we're ultimately going to do. That helps us, I think, have the right conversation with industry, at least—as the Minister says—about the demand picture, right? Of what it is that we're trying to do. And it's, I think, a big part of the answer to the issue.
And I think one of the questions, you know, people have, knowing that there are a lot of challenges right now, still. So, we've, I think, you know, definitely I think we're in a much better place with the pandemic than we were—I don't want to jinx us, I think nobody wants to be in the game of predictions from the last couple of years—but I think, certainly, we've seen so much progress, and we've seen a lot of great things moving forward. So, you know, knowing inflationary challenges, knowing supply chain, knowing those kinds of challenges that we're all being impacted by—whether on an individual level or, you know, organizationally—how ultimately will the government ensure what gets done is going to get done, right? You know, there are big commitments made. So, how are they, how did those conversations come together?
Yeah. May I?
The Hon. Kinga Surma
Yeah, every day, from eight to eight, yeah, it's the conversation that we have. Look, three things, in particular, that I think are part of the recipe for success here. And it was my second commitment about being as sophisticated as we can be and as deliberate as we can be about risk. So, number one, we've taken the step on some of our projects of thinking about the packaging of those works, and the extent to which the thoughtful disaggregation of some of our projects—particularly the transit space, yes, exactly right—create not only, for lack of a better word, digestible projects for our market, but also intentionally allow a counterparty to manage risks, which they know that they can. And tunnelling, I think, is an excellent example of precisely that. And I think the market responded really well to the decision, ultimately, to create separate tunnelling tenders for our transit projects.
Second, within our existing contract structures, I think we've tried to learn from the lessons of the last 10 to 15 years, the kinds of risks that have posed such a problem for public major projects. Whether it's permits, licences, and approvals, or found condition and geotechnical risk, we've been working with the industry to think about, frankly, how we create new ways of trying to identify, quantify, and mitigate those risks on an ongoing basis. And obviously, you will all continue to tell us how well we're doing that, but I think we're making progress.
And then third, the adoption of a more progressive form of project definition and design—especially for massive complex projects measured in the billions of dollars—is another very intentional step that we've taken to create a space before we fix a price for work. To work with a competitively selected counterparty, to ultimately define what not only the cost of work is going to be, but also what the quality of that work is going to be, and how we think about managing risk in the eventual contract that we sign. So, those three things, in particular, I think, Kelly, are a big part of what, again, we collectively are trying to do to manage some of these trends and forces, which are generational for sure.
You mentioned the tunnels. And this is sort of a more lighthearted question—and I don't know if the Minister can answer this—what's the story behind the names of the two boring machines? That’s from the audience.
The Hon. Kinga Surma
So, Renny stands for Renforth Station, and Rexy is for Rexdale, so it's two areas in Etobicoke. But as you know, Metrolinx has naming competitions. So, those submissions were made by constituents, and then ultimately selected by Metrolinx as, you know, having a little bit of fun with building a building infrastructure. But I love the names, so I say them all the time. Any speech that I can include those two names in it, I say it.
Okay, well, there you go, you've got the scoop. The other question sort of is picking up around transit is the Transit-Oriented Communities Program. And I know you spoke a little bit about that, but one of the questions from the audience is, how can we leverage that program to help deliver on the one million new homes that are urgently needed throughout the GTA?
The Hon. Kinga Surma
Well, we absolutely can. Every, not every single station, but most of our stations along our subway expansion plan will have transit-oriented communities. We've made great progress with the City of Toronto in terms of releasing our plans for five of the stations along Ontario Line South, where we will be adding density residential spaces, including affordable housing or attainable housing opportunities at those stations, and other amenities that are very much needed in that area. And then with York Region, two stations along Yonge North Bridge and High Tech. So, we are constantly making progress. We're talking about thousands of additional units, places where people can live. But it's not just a place where people can live, because you'll have other amenities and you'll be close to transit, which is so important. So, we're proceeding forward, we're working really well with the City of Toronto and York Region. They have embraced this, and absolutely will be building thousands of new units.
Tracey Cook is out there somewhere—Tracey, I didn't say hi to you in my remarks, our thanks to the City of Toronto, the Minister’s absolutely right, it's a great partnership. Again, just to contextualize it, world-leading cities, cities that genuinely, I think, are part of the heartbeat of the international community, do precisely this, right? They think about how you get transit to people to bring economic opportunity closer to those people. And then, they think intentionally about how you create density along those transit lines, to concentrate resources, to have good ecological and green outcomes, etc. So, I just, I gush about it whenever we talk about transit-oriented communities. It’s an incredibly important public policy that we're very privileged to be working with Minister Surma to deliver.
Absolutely. And, you know, last year when we spoke about it and we talked about transit, we really said it is a generational buildout. And sometimes we forget that. You think people just talking about one project, but when you put it all together, it really is, you know, transformative.
The Hon. Kinga Surma
Right. Every corner of the city. In the East End with Scarborough, the West End, downtown core, and Midtown and then York Region, we really will be touching every single part of the city.
And the economic activity that goes with it, right? I mean, it is the second wave of investment that will happen, arising from the government's historic investment in transit. I mean, it is the next economic boom that comes after we build the transit projects themselves.
So, both of you in your remarks spoke a little bit about, I think, not just the flexibility that the government and IO has shown in terms of different procurement processes, you know, this idea of really right tool, right job. So, one of the questions from the audience is around what are we doing to attract new construction partners that may have more collaborative procurement experience to the province?
The Hon. Kinga Surma
Well, Michael has been going to a lot of conferences.
This is true. But more importantly, I've been talking pretty prolifically—and my team has, too—to everybody who's interested in doing business in Ontario. And I think the key way ultimately we're trying to attract people with those capabilities is by actually doing collaborative procurement and contracting, which is happening. From, you know, Union Station, to a progressive DB, which we're doing in connection to the Scarborough Subway Extension. Even, there's this tendency to think of, you know, ‘we used to do this, now we do this.’ The reality is, those types of contract forms sit easily alongside our existing P3 delivery approach—for which we have a global reputation of being leaders—provided we're willing to talk to each other on a continuing basis about how those contract structures work, and what the risk within them ultimately looks like, and how we can get more collaborative, even within a P3 structure, when it comes to risk. A great example of that is on tunnelling, geotechnical risk. Same contract form—at the end of the day, it's a DBF—it's just an agreement with the counterparty that there's a different way to think about that risk and how it gets mitigated. So, all of the above, I think. But definitely, Kelly, to reinforce your point, talk to the market endlessly about what is the right tool for a given job. Because it isn't always the same.
The Hon. Kinga Surma
I would add from the government's perspective, what we want to do is simply just get out of the way. Get out of the way as much as possible, so that so that infrastructure projects that are certainly critical to the people can be built as quickly as possible. We've done that with the Building Transit Faster Act, with Building Broadband Faster. We are always looking for ways in which we can just remove duplicative or unnecessary processes, or processes that are just so burdensome and time and time consuming, so that we can get those hospitals built.
Within your ministry now, there's a responsibility for real estate. And I think that's something a little bit different. So, did you want to take a minute and speak a little bit about how you're seeing the connections between that new part of the portfolio and, obviously, all of this work that's underway?
The Hon. Kinga Surma
Yes, the Premier gave us more work with realty portfolio. I think it's absolutely complimentary to us to be able to look up provincial assets and look up provincial lands, as we're building infrastructure and transit-oriented communities, as we're looking at innovative ways to build long-term care homes and other facilities. And so, I think our goal is to see what lands, what assets are sitting there, how can we utilize them better. We're doing this with long-term care—in Oakville, building a long-term care facility on surplus lands; 640 new long-term care beds. And so, I think we'll be forging ahead with that initiative as much as possible. Not just for long-term care, but other government priorities like affordable housing,
4400 buildings, 194,000 acres. It's a massive portfolio, to the Minister’s point, right? And I think the other thing that I'd say, Minister, is making sure that at the moment we create new assets, we have a solid asset management plan that goes with them. And that we continue to lean into what we've done as a jurisdiction, which is to make sure that we're provisioning as much as we can for effective maintenance of condition of these assets over the long term, even as we create them, so that we don't back into what many jurisdictions face, right? Which is ageing buildings in a bad state of disrepair.
So, the last question, I would say, we've gotten from the audience—and a few different people asked this, so I don't want to put anyone on the spot—but the question is around what's the timing for the next market update?
Imminently. Again, I—if I may. Minister—we want to make sure that we come to the market when we are ready to confirm absolutely everything about our pipeline, right? And I think it's been important, given the trends and forces that we've been facing, that we take a little time, that we turn government, to ultimately think about this very first pipeline update that we're going to bring. I know we've talked to many of you in this room about it and got your feedback on it. But it's, it's imminent. It'll be very soon.
So, I always, you know, like to ask this question when I end the conversation. It's the, ‘what are you most excited about?’ So, you know, when you look forward and you think about you said, you know, you're gonna get the job done. So, for you, what's the really exciting part of that?
The Hon. Kinga Surma
Well, I'm very excited to be back. May and June were tough, as you know, we had an election. But I'm so excited to be back because we started so many projects. We started great work on TOCs, we have our Subway Transit Plan that is just kicking off work, construction continues. But there's so much more to do. And I think we have a great team in terms of our caucus colleagues, and our ministers, Infrastructure Ontario, Metrolinx, and we're ready for that challenge. We were able to get through COVID very well, I think. Particularly, through the building projects in the Ministry of Infrastructure. And we do have tough times ahead of us, but I'm very confident in our team, and in all of you, and I know we'll get through it together.
Largest expansion and electrification of a commuter rail system, probably anywhere in the world right now. Largest expansion of a subways network—certainly in North America—happening right now. Largest injection of new housing supply, through the Transit-Oriented Communities Program, that this region has seen in quite some time. And connecting 300,000 Ontarians to 50-up 10-down high-speed internet. I mean, I think it speaks for itself. It's an incredibly exciting time to work with all of you on these types of challenges.
Last word to you, Minister.
The Hon. Kinga Surma
I just want to thank all of you, and thank you for working so hard throughout COVID. Thank you for working with Michael, thank you for continuing on with your projects, thank you for engaging with us and working with government. And let's just keep going. The people do depend on us. We have hospitals to build, we have schools to build, we have people, we have high-speed internet connecting every single home. Let's continue to engage, adapt, and push forward.
Excellent. Thank you so much.
Thanks very much.
Thank you very much, Minister Surma, Michael Lindsay, and Kelly, that’s a great job. I'd now like to invite John Peevers, Director, Community, Media Relations and Economic Development at Bruce Power, to deliver the appreciation remarks.
Note of Appreciation by John Peevers, Director, Community, Media Relations & Economic Development, Bruce Power
Thank you, Minister Surma, Michael, and Kelly. What an inspiring conversation. I think all of us will leave energized from that, and let's keep going I think is a pretty good motto for infrastructure. Very timely, important, informative discussion. As some of you will be aware, Bruce Power is undergoing Ontario's largest private infrastructure and clean energy project, which is supported by strong nuclear supply chain here in Ontario, and strong union partners—and lots of them are in the room today—and we appreciate that partnership and the hard work you're doing. Bruce Power’s Life Extension Program involves the gradual replacement of older systems in our reactors, and this is going to ensure a reliable supply of carbon-free electricity to help the province reach its climate change goals, power economic recovery through private sector investment, and enable the production of cancer-fighting medical isotopes for a global market, which is something we're incredibly proud of.
Bruce Power is a prime example of public private partnerships in action. We're Canada's only private sector nuclear generator. Our assets remain publicly owned, while Bruce Power funds all infrastructure upgrades. The program will secure an estimated 22,000 jobs directly and indirectly from our operations, and then an additional five thousand jobs annually throughout the investment program that's injecting billions into Ontario's economy. We're very proud to do our part to ensure world-class energy infrastructure in Canada, and truly appreciate the work that Minister Surma and the Government of Ontario are doing to build and strengthen communities across the province. Thank you.
Concluding Remarks by Sal Rabbani
Thank you, John Peevers. And thanks again to Jean-Louis Servranckx, and all our sponsors for their support, Minister Surma, Michael Lindsay, and everyone joining us today or participating at a later date online. As a club of record, the Empire Club of Canada events are available to watch and listen to on demand on our website. The recording of this event will be available shortly, and everyone registered will receive an email with the link.
Our next event of the season is on Thursday, October the 27th, featuring a panel discussion on the key opportunities of electric vehicles, and what some of the top industry participants are doing to help support the future of the transportation sector. On Thursday, November 3rd, join us as we host a lunch with the Honourable Todd Smith, Minister of Energy, for a highly anticipated conversation on building Ontario's clean energy advantage as a major opportunity to power up our industries, jobs, and economy. Thanks again for joining us today. We invite you to stay, join us in the lobby for networking. Have a great afternoon. This meeting is now adjourned. Thank you.