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Toronto deputy manager John Livey retires

Toronto deputy manager John Livey will be retiring from public service on April 4, 2018.

Livey was responsible for corporate oversight and administrative governance. He has overseen collaborative city-wide initiatives and projects including city planning, transportation, engineering, and construction.

“John is known as a principled leader with a commitment to innovation and excellence,” said City Manager Peter Wallace in a statement. “He has always faced obstacles and challenges head on, with a drive to deliver the best possible results for the residents of Toronto. His determination and hard work will certainly be missed.”

Some of Livey’s notable achievements, according to the City of Toronto, is his role in the Port Lands development and implementation plan, the transit file including Smart Track, Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension, Relief Line, and Scarborough Transit Network. Livey was also responsible for the city’s emergency response during the 2013 ice storm.

He was also a strong supporter of the new motherlode transit network and Rail Deck Park, two initiatives that strived to connect neighbourhoods and regions to the downtown core.

“It has been an honour to work for the City of Toronto,” said Livey. “I would like to thank my many staff teams, senior management colleagues, Mayor Tory and the Members of Council with whom I have had the privilege to work. I know that City staff will continue to advance city-building initiatives through innovation and a commitment to continuous improvement.”

Livey joined the City of Toronto in 2011 after serving as Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Markham. He also worked with the Region of York.

The city will begin the hiring process in early 2018.

Would you donate to support Toronto’s roads?

Toronto’s roads needs your support!

Every day, these roads suffer. After decades of neglect and abuse, they deserve to be nurtured. There are too many car accidents and too many road deaths. But does anyone think of the roads themselves — they have gone through hell each time. They need your help! Without your support, they will continue to live in these terrible conditions.

Donate now!

Imagine you read this on a pamphlet or saw an advertisement on television asking you to donate funds to the city to help develop safety infrastructure for your neighbourhood. It sounds ridiculous right? And yet, not ridiculous enough to avoid becoming a recommendation to city council.

At this week’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, a report on the city’s Vision Zero Road Plan actually recommended accepting donations from residents for local projects. It reads: “In addition, this report considers the feasibility of accepting donations from the public to provide funding support for local projects and recommends commencing the detailed planning and implementation process for an automated speed enforcement program to operate in school zones and community safety zones.”

City staff said that an additional $6.303 million in capital funding will be needed between 2019 and 2021. These funds can help “further accelerate” the Road Safety Plan. The cost of Vision Zero is already $80.3 million.

This report will be heading to city council on Dec. 5.

Now, I know funds are tight. There are very few outside revenue sources available to city staff, so it kind of makes sense they would resort to these type of suggestions.

HOWEVER, there is a serious socio-economic problem with this recommendation.

First of all, the report indicates the funding will support “local projects”. This means that donations in Regent Park will be used in Regent Park and donations in Forest Hill will be used in Forest Hill. The wealthier neighbourhoods — whose residents may be more inclined and able to make those donations to the city — will reap the benefits. The other neighbourhoods will be left behind.

This is unacceptable.

The whole idea of Vision Zero is to reduce fatalities and injuries on roads, aiming for zero traffic-related deaths and injuries. This will never happen if some neighbourhoods are safe and others are not. Instead, it will just reinforce the economic divisions within this city.

The truly disappointing part about this recommendation is that there was no amendment proposed by any committee member that would change this section of the report. No one said – well why don’t we look at increasing taxes or looking at outside revenue sources for this $6 million instead of asking people to donate funds to a government they already pay for.

We can only hope that council sees past this and is able to have an actual conversation about what crowd-funding for road safety really means. Because at the end of the day – safety is about the people, not the roads.

Toronto approves move to Phase Two of Rail Deck Park

The proposed Rail Deck Park has multiple functions — providing much-needed green public space as well as becoming a connecting area for GO Transit commuters.

This idea was reinforced with an amendment at Tuesday’s executive committee meeting. In addition to recommending staff advance to the second stage of the work plan in 2018-19, staff will also assess opportunities to create “new connections to Rail Deck Park”, including the Green Line along the hydro lands and extensions of the West Toronto Railpath.

Rail Deck Park is expected to be a sprawling 21-acre green space in the heart of the city, built above pre-existing transit lines that stretch from Bathurst Ave. to Blue Jays Way. According to the report presented to the executive committee, it will be the largest downtown park outside of the Don Valley.

“If this growth is to continue, there is a need for significant new infrastructure, including parkland, to ensure the quality of life, health, and sustainability of Downtown neighbourhoods. If this cannot be achieved, it may be necessary for the City to reconsider the pace and amount of future development in the Downtown.”

The cost for the project will be an estimated $1.665 billion, or $83 million per acre. This estimate includes about over $600 million in contingencies. The city plans on taking advantage of Section 42, also known as cash-in-lieu of parkland dedication funds. This revenue is collected from new developments with the sole purpose of developing and acquiring parkland. Not much is known about how the park will be funded other than the city will explore sponsorships, donations, and contributions from other levels of governments.

 

The city of Toronto is growing rapidly, and the downtown core is in great need of more green space to off-set future development. There is also an advantage of ensuring connectivity by integrating access to GO Rail.

City staff will report back on the financial feasibility of Phase Two in a few months.

What do you think of the Rail Deck Park? Let us know in the comments below!

Is the Relief Line finally spurring forward?

Earlier this week, Toronto Mayor John Tory reaffirmed his commitment and support of the Yonge Relief Line. He affirmed his support while at a conference hosted by the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships to a crowd of investors, builders, and designers. This transit line has been labelled a priority by not only the mayor, but also city staff and transit experts.

City staff have already said that Line 1 will be at capacity by 2031. In the meantime, further transit lines are being built — the Eglinton Crosstown, the Yonge-Sheppard Subway Extension, and elements of SmartTrack. And these are only the city initiatives. The province is also planning to build high-speed rail connecting Windsor and Toronto. The problem is that all of these lines funnel transit riders towards the downtown core. Without a relief line in place, Toronto’s Line 1 will be packed to the brim. It’s becoming more and more important to get the relief line built — and yet decision-making is moving at a slow pace.

Council has approved the alignment of the southern end of the relief line, connecting the Bloor-Danforth line with the downtown core via Carlaw Ave.

Toronto’s relationship with the province has been rocky since Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne refused to allow the city to collect funds using tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Express, but it seems to finally be levelling out. Mayor Tory is having regular meetings with the provincial government, and seems to believe that funding is not as much of a problem as it once was. This is good news, and hopefully means the relief line can progress more quickly.

Toronto received $120 million from the federal government to fund infrastructure like the relief line, but it is at risk of losing the money because there is a time stamp attached. This means that if city staff don’t use the money by 2018, the federal government could take it away. Considering how long it takes for council to make decisions, especially when it comes to spending money on transit, this deadline is not realistic.

Mayor Tory has requested an extension of that deadline, but no answer has come. About $2.7 million of that money was earmarked to study the relief line.

Following the approval of the alignment for the relief line, city staff have begun to conduct a Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP), which includes advancing planning and design

Janice Fukakusa, chair of Infrastructure Bank, to speak in Toronto

Janice Fukakusa was appointed as Chair of the Canada Infrastructure Bank in July. After 31 years with Royal Bank, Fukakasa was the perfect fit for the new organization. As Chair of the Infrastructure Bank, Fukakusa will help choose the board of directors that will oversee the agency’s operations and guide daily actions.

Fukakusa has previously worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. She has a Bachelor of Arts from University of Toronto, a Master’s of Business Administration, and is a Chartered Professional Accountant and Business Valuator. In 2007, Fukakusa was inducted into Canada’s Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame and named one of 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking in 2016.

She is currently on the board of Cineplex, General Growth Properties, the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, and the Wellspring Cancer Foundation, among others. She also sits on the Board of Governors of Ryerson University.

Fukakusa will be a special speaker at the 25th Annual Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships (CPPP) National Conference on Public-Private Partnerships. Her address will discuss “Canada’s New Infrastructure Frontier” and touch upon how best to increase private sector investments into complex revenue generating projects through the support of P3s.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank is a new $35 billion initiative of the Liberal Government and was announced in their 2017 federal budget. It hopes to provide low-cost financing for new infrastructure projects by injecting private funds for public projects. The Bank hopes to be operational by the end of 2017.

Register for the CCPP National Conference here.

Christiana Figueres to speak in Toronto about climate change and PPPs

After numerous hurricanes ravaged the Caribbean and insanely sporadic weather hit North America the last few months, talking about the connections between climate change and public infrastructure has never been more important.

On Oct. 11, Christiana Figueres, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, will be speaking in Toronto about protecting public infrastructure in an era of global climate change. The event is being hosted by the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships (CCPPP) and is being called a “pre-conference keynote”.

Figueres is the Global Chair of Mayors for Climate and Energy and Convener of Mission 2020. Previously, she held the position of Executive Secretary of the United Natinosl Framework Convention on Climate Change. She also helped negotiate the 2015 Paris Agreement Her speech will address the implications and consequences of global climate change, while looking to the future and preparing for the public infrastructure needed to make cities sustainable.

Tickets to her keynote (12 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.) are available here.

The event is a prelude to the CCPPP’s 25th Annual Conference on Public-Private Partnerships, set to take place on Nov. 6-7 at the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto. To find out more information about the conference, go here.

Is Ontario investing too much in foreign builders?

Everyone is talking about the foreign buyers tax in Ontario — but no one is talking about the increase in foreign builders.

What do I mean by foreign builders? Large, international companies based in Italy, France, or Japan, with small offices within the GTHA, are being given contracts for large transit projects while smaller Canadian companies are shut out.

If you take a look at the shortlist for the Hurontario LRT, half of the constructors are not from Canada. They may have Canadian offices, but the companies themselves were created and have headquarters in Europe, the United States, and Asia. While each individual “team” that is bidding for the contract does have at least two Canadian companies on board, this is not a guarantee on division of work and/or financial contributions.

And this is a big problem.

By allotting contracts for big developments and transit projects to foreign builders, it severely impacts the Canadian economy. It means less jobs and less money for construction workers, and it means the competition between Canadian companies is steep.

Canada also has a unique climate. There are certain materials that must be used for a development to support extreme cold and hot temperatures. Would a company from Spain or Italy be able to understand how to build something resistant to this temperamental landscape?

An even bigger problem is that these foreign companies are not connected to the community, and therefore do not understand and/or empathize with local concerns over a new development. These companies come in, build, and leave, which means they are not around if any problems arise and they don’t get to see the affect it has on the residents who leave them. There is no real investment to the community they are building.

To be clear, collaborating with international partners is not a bad thing. These types of partnerships can inspire new ideas and provide interesting solutions to municipal problems.

However, when native companies are pushed out of the process in favour of international conglomerates — it’s Canada that loses out.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Senate pushes forward Infrastructure Bank

Wednesday, the Senate passed legislation that would allow for the creation of the Infrastructure Bank. According to the bill passed, this corporation’s purpose is to “invest in, and seek to attract private sector and institutional investments to, revenue-generating infrastructure projects.”

Bill C-44 allows government to implement certain provisions to the federal budget, including making room for the much-talked-about Infrastructure Bank. The bank will help structure proposals and negotiate agreements for infrastructure projects across the country. They will receive unsolicited proposals from the private sector or institutional investors, provide advice to all levels of government, and monitor the state of infrastructure in Canada.

As Bruce McCuaig, Executive Advisor of the Privy Council, said Tuesday at a seminar on alternative financing, “If we were to build all infrastructure on public balance sheets, we wouldn’t be able to get there.”

The seminar McCuaig spoke at Tuesday was hosted by the Transit Alliance, a non-political organization for those who work in the transit and infrastructure industry, students, or those interested in transit and transit planning in cities across Southern Ontario. Much of the discussion centered around whether or not the Infrastructure Bank is going to be useful for municipalities.

The biggest challenge is that Bill C-44 only outlines the recommendations and the broad powers the Infrastructure Bank holds. There are still quite a few details to work out, for example how the Infrastructure Bank will balance public and private interests. The general consensus is that the bank will provide opportunities for municipalities, but that it should focus on projects that are having a harder time finding funding.

As the bank starts to develop and grow, more information will become available.

What do you think of the Infrastructure Bank? Let us know in the comments below!

Transit Alliance: financing infrastructure via P3 and AFP

Ontario has an infrastructure deficit — there is a lot of infrastructure that still needs to be developed, but very little money is available. This creates a bit of a challenge. “If we were to build all infrastructure on public balance sheets, we wouldn’t be able to get there,” said Bruce McCuaig, Executive Advisor of Privy Council Office. “Money isn’t free.”

McCuaig was a special guest at the Transit Alliance’s seminar on alternative financing and public-private partnerships. Over 80 people attended the June 20 event in hopes of learning more about the Infrastructure Bank and alternative financing models that can help push municipal projects forward.

The morning seminar began with a fireside chat between McCuaig, KPMG partner Will Lipson, and Transit Alliance Chair Brian Crombie. The conversation centered around the Infrastructure Bank, a crown corporation that will provide low-cost financing for new infrastructure projects. McCuaig is set to help launch the Infrastructure Bank through the Privy Council.

“It’s about finding the best financial model for the project,” McCuaig said. “Each on has different needs.”

Transit will play a big part of the portfolio, although clean water was also mentioned numerous times throughout the discussion. McCuaig stressed that a balance will be needed between public interest and independence within the crown corporation, and that decisions should be made using evidence-based analysis.

The Infrastructure Bank will be complimentary to Infrastructure Ontario, Infrastructure Canada, and other private agencies. KPMG said the corporation will bring about numerous opportunities for municipalities, providing more financing options than before.

“The government has been quite wise in implementing the bank,” Lipson said.

After the fireside chat, Crombie moderated a second panel that dealt largely with financing for smaller municipal projects. Special guests on the panel included Rob Pattison, SVP, LRT, Infrastructure Ontario; Don Dinnin, VP Procurement Services at Metrolinx; Olivia MacAngus, VP Corporate Development at Plenary Group; and Omer Malik, Vice President Project Financing at Stonebridge Financial Corporation.

Each member of the panel is involved in public-private partnerships or alternative financing, and believes that innovation and creativity are key when it comes to municipal projects. For most, the Infrastructure Bank is a unique opportunity, but not something to depend on. MacAngus and Malik both think there is too much unknown about the Infrastructure Bank. “We don’t need another traditional lender,” Malik said. “It should focus on a gap, where larger equity funds aren’t interested.”

Dinnin suggested the use of an agency such as the Infrastructure Bank to help spearhead the relief line in Toronto. Metrolinx, he said, has a number of funded projects using public-private partnerships, but maybe the Infrastructure Bank can fill the rest of that gap. “There is always more than one way to do something,” he said.

The collective solution to municipal infrastructure, as suggested by the panel, is hybrid-financing models and innovative thinking — partnering with the right investors to see your project completed.

The goal of alternative financing and public-private partnerships is to build and develop a project on time and on budget. According to Pattison of Infrastructure Ontario, the worst thing someone can do is drag out the construction phase.

The seminar also included a networking opportunity, where business and municipal leaders were able to approach these financial firms to discuss their personal projects and seek advice (or offer potential solutions).

“Expertise should always be evolving,” Pattison said.

Here are some photos from the event:

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”7″ gal_title=”P3 Seminar June 20″]

More photos to come.

Photographs taken by Ethan Helfrich.

Baby boomers and millenials need to prepare for senior crisis

Baby boomers and millennials are often at odds with one another due to differing values and desires. Baby Boomers are often blamed for the state of the economy and environmental degradation today, and millennials are seen as flippant and spoiled. Both parties enjoy pointing fingers, but the reality is these are the grandparents, parents, and children of society, and everyone must learn to work together.

In coming years, retiring baby boomers will be the largest age group in the twenty-first century to reach old-age and millennials, as a much smaller generation, will be in charge of providing for these seniors. To avoid being crushed economically on a global level, millennials and baby boomers need to put their differences aside and figure out how to support this fundamental change in society. The world is rapidly aging, with the number of people aged 60 or up growing from 11 per cent in 2006 to 22 per cent by 2050, according to the guide on building age-friendly cities by the World Health Organization (WHO). This is a massive population shift and society needs to prepare essential senior’s services in cities all over the world.

In celebration of senior’s month in Ontario, throughout the month of June there will be a lot of focus on providing services for seniors. The City of Toronto is dedicating programming to the safety of older adults with Toronto Fire Services, which includes door-to-door visits to Toronto Community Housing senior’s buildings and fire prevention services will conduct visits to provide safety tips to avoid home fires. Ontario is also supporting 460 new projects through the Senior’s Community Grant program to help seniors stay involved and active in their communities. This includes providing seniors with projects and initiatives in the non-profit sector to stay involved and engaged. Though these projects are positive for seniors, housing and transportation should be the central focus for senior’s month in Toronto.

In order to create an age-friendly city, builders must create stronger transportation. There is a global shortage of affordable housing that focuses on seniors and building infrastructure with old-age-motivated features will help avoid a housing crisis in the next 10 years. Public transportation benefits everyone and is a necessity for seniors because many can’t drive after a certain point. Buses and subways give unlimited access to essential city services such as medical and recreational services and should be a priority to build an age-friendly urban center.

When planning for seniors, providing accessibility in every part of the cityscape is also considerably important. According to the Age-friendly Checklist by Alberta Health, every aspect of a senior’s daily transportation must be easily accessible. Sidewalks need to be even for seniors with mobility issues and provided on all roadways. Public transportation must have elevators and easy access to buses and subways. Public buildings must be accommodated with handicap washrooms and ramps if there are stairs. In colder climates such as Canada, preparing for icy conditions and cold weather is also relevant for seniors.

With the better part of the baby boomer generation retiring in the next 10 years, it is imperative to start orienting infrastructure towards ensuring this large population of seniors will be taken care of. The frivolous arguments between millennials and baby boomers are ridiculous and must be abandoned. Instead, everyone must work together to ensure that seniors will have homes and transportation, and millennials won’t be crushed by the debt of an impending housing or public transit crisis.

For senior’s month, opening a discussion as to how to deal with the larger problems of creating an age-friendly city is ultimately the way to creating a stronger and more resilient city for generations to come.