ReNew Canada has produced the Top100 Projects report for the past 10 years, and this annual listing of the country’s 100 biggest projects (ranked by project value) is an industry touchstone. It looks at how our mega-projects are funded and, perhaps of more interest to our readership, which firms are working on them. A project remains on this list until it’s completed, which means some will continue to rank for a few years—or stick around for decades.
Growth in public infrastructure mega- project spending remains on the rise. This year, the country’s 100 biggest projects represent a total investment of $161.3 billion, a modest two-per-cent increase over 2015’s $157.9 billion. This can be attributed to a significant increase in transit spending across the country, along with a series of big-ticket transportation and energy projects that have been mainstays on the list for the past few years.
The list continues to be dominated by energy developments, with hydroelectric generation claiming four of the top five spots: Site C in British Columbia ($8.8 billion), Muskrat Falls in Newfoundland and Labrador ($6.99 billion), Romaine in Quebec ($6.5 billion), and Keeyask in Manitoba ($6.5 billion). In energy overall, the total number of projects fell from 31 to 27 and value dropped eight per cent to $57.5 billion. Part of the drop was the two large developments completed construction in 2015: Ontario’s $2.6-billion Lower Mattagami River Project (see page 21) and the $1.65-billion Western Alberta Transmission Line. In all, 10 hydroelectric, wind, transmission, and expansion projects wrapped up in 2015. Across all energy sectors, the list represents 16,417 megawatts (MW) in new or refurbished generation potential (down from 18,208 in 2015). It also represents 7,625 kilometres of transmission line development, including sub-sea lines.
The biggest area of growth was in transit. While this sector only grew by two projects (from 17 to 19), total value grew by 44 per cent to $39.8 billion. This is due in part to two new projects in the Top 20: the $4.5-billion Green Line LRT, which is still in early stages but has been boosted by recent federal funding pledges; and the second stage of Ottawa’s LRT development, pegged at around $3 billion. While these projects haven’t yet reached financial close, they are lynchpins in their respective municipalities’ transit plans and have received funding commitments. Most significantly, Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown LRT (formerly No. 5 on the list) secured a P3 partner in Crosslinx Transit Solutions and, in November 2015, announced the total value of the project over 30 years was $9.1 billion (with capital costs of $5.3 billion), making it the No. 1 project this year.
Of the 22 transportation projects of the list, valued at $39.1 billion, five are new to 2016. Year over year, this sector has remained steady, growing slightly over last year’s 21 projects valued at $38.8 billion. While the $3.3-billion Port Mann Bridge/Highway 1 Improvements in British Columbia fell off the list this year, Toronto’s proposed $2.6-billion F.G. Gardiner Expressway Strategic Rehabilitation Plan and the $1.2-billion second phase of Ontario’s Highway 407 East Extension picked up the slack. Additionally, Nunavut’s $418.9-million Iqaluit International Airport Improvement Project recently qualified for the list, beefing up Northern Canada’s representation.
There are 25 new projects to the list representing $25.8 billion. The driving force behind new growth was $9.5 billion in transit developments, followed by $6.1 billion in energy developments. Water and wastewater have a strong showing, with three new projects landing on the list: the $600-million Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant D Expansion (No. 79) in Calgary, the $569-million North End Sewage Treatment Plant Biological Nutrient Removal Upgrade (No. 82) in Winnipeg, and the $550-million Annacis Island Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion (No. 83) in Metro Vancouver.
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P3s take a third
One third of Top100 Projects are designated as public-private partnerships (P3s), encompassing everything from the No. 1 project—the Eglinton Crosstown LRT in Toronto—to multimillion-dollar hospital projects like the BC Children & Women’s Hospital/Health Centre Redevelopment. Even the No. 2 project, Site C, has a significant P3 component: a contract for the project’s $470-million worker accommodations, a temporary camp located on the north bank of the Peace River.
While last year it seemed big-ticket P3s were on a slight decline, this year’s Top100 saw a seven-project jump in projects using this procurement model (from 26 to 33). The 2016 list saw P3s’ total value increase by 30 per cent to $52.4 billion, representing 32 per cent of the entire list’s $161.3-billion value. Infrastructure Ontario has been on the forefront of health- care developments in the past decade, but 2015’s numbers were boosted also thanks to hospital projects outside the province, such as a new hospital North Battleford, Saskatchewan and the Stanton Territorial Hospital Renewal Project.
Forty-four projects ($76.2 billion) were procured with traditional public funds, with the remaining procured fully or in part with private funds.
Ontario once again represented the most significant portion of the Top100, with $51.5 billion in investment over 34 projects, representing 12-per-cent increase of over 2015 spending while staying steady in total number of projects. Transit was the clear frontrunner, with $29.3 billion infused into 14 projects, an increase over 2015—and with the Greater Toronto Area’s expanding transit plans, there’s more to come. The building, energy, and transportation sectors all hover between $6 billion and $7 billion in total investment.
The future continues to look bright when it comes to Ontario transit. In May 2015, the province pledged up to $1 billion to build a new LRT line in Hamilton (not in the Top100—yet). Vehicles on tracks separated from regular traffic will offer speedy service from McMaster University through downtown Hamilton to Queenston Circle. Procurement will start in 2017, with construction starting in 2019.
In December 2015, Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said the government plans to transform GO Transit into two-way, all-day regional express rail, with electrified service on five corridors, at a cost of $13.5 billion over 10 years. Construction commitments require Metrolinx to complete environmental assessments by the end of 2016. Detailed design and phasing will follow the approval of the environmental assessment, and once projects begin to move ahead, they will be included in the Top100.
In December 2015, Bruce Power and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) entered into an amended, long-term agreement to secure electricity from the site through a multi-year investment program. For the past 14 years, Bruce Power has invested $10 billion of private money into the publicly owned nuclear site—doubling the number of operational units from four to eight—without impacting the province’s balance sheet in the process. Bruce Power is Canada’s only private sector nuclear generator and the largest operating nuclear facility in the world. The company produces 6,300 megawatts—more than 30 per cent of Ontario’s electricity—from its site on the shore of Lake Huron. The amended agreement will enable the company to progress with a series of incremental life-extension investments, including refurbishment. While there is a process to determine the cost of refurbishment and off- ramps, it is estimated the six refurbishments in the agreement will cost $8 billion, in addition to $5 billion in a range of other life-extension activities from 2016 to 2053. Between 2016 and 2020, the company will be investing approximately $2.3 billion as part of this plan, which will likely secure a spot in a future Top100.
Quebec has $27.1 billion in development in 13 projects in this year’s Top100, with energy and transportation each contributing five projects and more than $10 billion. This is a slim nine-per-cent drop in Top100 investment compared to 2015.
Looking to the future, transit is going to continue to be a major trend—and a political hot topic. In July 2015, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec established a new subsidiary, CDPQ Infra., which marked the starting point of the evaluation process of two projects with the potential to increase the value of future Top100 lists: a public transit system on the new Champlain Bridge (No. 9) and a public transit system linking downtown Montréal to the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport and the West Island. For years, community members on Montreal’s South Shore and the West Island have been begging for more efficient public transit infrastructure.
An executive committee has been put in place to ensure the coordination between CDPQ Infra and the Quebec government for the planning and construction phases (if the identified projects go forward at the conclusion of the evaluation process). When the preliminary analyses and project definitions are completed, CDPQ Infra will also conduct ongoing consultations with the different stakeholders concerned. The Caisse, which manages public pension plans in Quebec, is aiming to complete the projects, worth $5 billion, before the end of 2020.
In May 2011, the Quebec government unveiled the Plan Nord, a program for the development of resources in northern Quebec, and in April 2015, it relaunched the program with a five-year action plan. Major investments will be made to support the development of infrastructure projects already under way and those planned for the area north of the 49th parallel. To put in place the conditions needed to promote development and access to the land, the government plans for action totalling $1.34 billion—$914.2 million in investments for the completion of strategic infrastructure projects, and $425.4 million for the “implementation of priority actions and the administration of the Société du Plan Nord.” In addition to these amounts, substantial investments will be made by the private sector. Contributions from the federal government may also increase spending.
British Columbia had the third-strongest showing—$26.2 billion invested over 19 projects—with energy projects (eight in total) scooping up a plurality of that and more than half the financial value ($13.7 billion). This is understandable since the province houses the list’s largest energy development, Site C, which secured a construction team in late 2015. Overall, the province’s share of the Top100 dropped around 15 per cent compared to 2015.
The province has long been lobbying for expanding its transit infrastructure, and there is much to look forward to in future years. During a promise-heavy election campaign, the federal Liberals announced funding for Surrey’s $2.1-billion light rail project in September 2015. This looks likely to move forward in 2016 as the Liberals have committed to providing an additional $20 billion in public transportation funding over the next decade for the country’s top regional priorities. Both Vancouver and Surrey have been championing the transit projects, including a $2-billion, 5.1-kilometre underground extension of the SkyTrain line, which are cited as priorities in TransLink’s 10-year transportation plan.
Providence Health Care in Vancouver is moving forward with preliminary design on the St. Paul’s Hospital Redevelopment, which is estimated to cost $1.2 billion and is destined for a future Top100. A clinical plan
is the first major piece of the development of the project’s detailed business plan, which will be completed over the next year, and then submitted to the provincial government for review. Construction on the new site is expected to begin in 2018 and will be built by 2023. The province has committed to providing $500 million, and the remaining cost will be covered by Providence Health Care leveraging existing lands it already owns as well as anticipated significant philanthropic contributions.
Alberta had a strong showing in the Top100, with $25.9 billion invested in 16 projects, up front 15 in 2015—and transportation projects take up $10 billion of those funds.
The new provincial government released budget details in October 2015 with a plan that includes $2.2 billion for health facilities and equipment over five years, with $830 million to begin work on the Calgary Cancer Centre (which has been anticipated to cost around $1.2 billion in last year’s Top100 report). As well, planning has also begun for major renovations at the Misericordia and Royal Alexandra hospitals in Edmonton.
The province’s five-year capital plan also invests $4.7 billion for roads and bridges, including Edmonton and Calgary ring roads and Highways 63, 28, and 19; $3.8 billion for schools, including 200 new schools and modernization projects; and $1.6 billion for government facilities. There was also $581 million earmarked for post-secondary facilities—including NAIT Centre for Applied Technology, NorQuest College’s Downtown Campus, University of Calgary Schulich School of Engineering, and Lethbridge College Trades and Technology, which didn’t qualify for the Top100 due to their size.
With transit, the $1.8-billion southeast leg of the Edmonton Valley Line (No. 26) will run from Mill Woods Town Centre to downtown, and the TransEd Partners consortium was chosen in November 2015 to design, build, operate, maintain, and finance it. A contract is expected to be finalized by February 2016, with construction to begin shortly afterwards. Looking forward, phase two for the line will continue on to Lewis Farms at an estimated cost of $1.4 billion, which has not been funded yet.
Manitoba held steady year over year, with $13.4 billion invested in five projects. Two energy developments—the $6.5-billion Keeyask Hydroelectric Project (No. 5) and $4.6-billion Bipole III Transmission Line (No. 7)—comprise a majority of that money.
The City of Winnipeg has also made significant investments in water and wastewater infrastructure, with the $569.4-million North End Sewage Treatment Plant Biological Nutrient Removal Upgrade (No. 82) landing on the Top100 this year. Additionally, the city also has $335.6 million and $274.1 million earmarked for its South End Water Pollution Control Centre (No. 106) and Biosolids Management Program (No. 124), respectively.
Energy infrastructure continues to be a major driving force. Manitoba Hydro reports that there are almost 400 distribution stations in the province, with 97 stations in the City of Winnipeg alone, 37 of which are operating beyond their technical limitations. The organization needs to replace or refurbish 20 substations in Winnipeg alone, at an estimated cost of $630 million over the next 10 to 12 years. Outside of Winnipeg, Manitoba Hydro is making “a concerted effort to improve the reliability of service and enhance the capacity of our system.”
Saskatchewan had the highest percentage of year-over-year growth in the Top100 (68 per cent), with $4.7 billion invested in six projects, up from $2.8 billion in four projects in 2015. This is due two new P3 developments: the $635-million Joint-Use Schools Project (No. 73) and the $407-million North Battleford Hospital (No. 97). Transportation, however, still remains the province’s largest investment, with $1.88 billion investments in another P3, the Regina Bypass (No. 24).
As Saskatchewan’s population continues to grow, so does its infrastructure and capital needs. The province’s 2015-’16 budget began a four-year, $5.8-billion commitment to build and maintain needed core infrastructure like schools, health-care facilities, municipal infrastructure, roads, bridges, and highways. This budget provides more than $1.3 billion for core infrastructure in 2015-16, “the largest infrastructure allocation in our province’s history and an increase of almost 50 per cent from last year,” according the budget document. The capital plan will see capital investments of $581 million to build highways and transportation infrastructure; $248.5 million in K-12 schools; $46.6 million in universities and regional colleges; and $256.4 million for health capital.
The second phase of the Regina Revitalization Initiative—with the first phase sitting at No. 70 on the list, the new Mosaic Stadium—includes the redevelopment of approximately 17.5 acres of vacant downtown land formerly used as a Canadian Pacific intermodal yard. With new offices, shops, and restaurants, there will be new opportunities for work and play, and a variety of housing options will provide distinctive urban living. With a new walkway connecting this lively district to downtown, it will strengthen Regina’s culture and nightlife. Urban planning, design, and engineering consulting work is currently underway on the $500-million project as part of a public engagement process, and has the potential to joint Phase 1 on the Top100 in future years. The project is not expected to be completed until 2025.
Newfoundland and Labrador was the most significant player among the Atlantic provinces, holding steady with three projects representing $8.9 billion in investment across most sectors: the massive $7.65-billion Muskrat Falls Project (No. 3), $683-million Trans Labrador Highway Widening and Hard Surfacing (No. 68), and $588-million New Hospital in Corner Brook (No. 80).
Canada’s East Coast remains a hotbed of hydroelectric potential—some of which is currently being developed, and some that has yet to be harnessed. The 3,000-MW potential of Muskrat Falls and Gull Island makes the lower Churchill River in Labrador the best undeveloped hydroelectric source in North America. Phase 1 of Nalcor Energy’s Lower Churchill project is the Muskrat Falls project, and it’s No. 3 on this year’s list. However, Phase 2 of the project will consist of the development of the 2,250-MW Gull Island generation facility and associated transmission assets, with costs estimated at $12 billion. According to the Nalcor Energy website, the proposed development would follow no earlier than three years after the sanction of Muskrat Falls.
Nova Scotia was the only other Maritime province to land on the Top100 with the $1.6-billion Maritime Link Project. Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick are shut out again in 2016.
However, New Brunswick is host to two significant projects just outside of the Top100. The City of Saint John is moving forward with its Safe Clean Drinking Water Project (No. 139), which will bring a new water treatment plant to the city’s east side thanks to a $220-million P3 agreement reached in November 2015 with the Port City Water Partners consortium. Regarding social infrastructure, Moncton city council voted to proceed with a proposed $107-million downtown entertainment and sports centre (No. 196) that could open by fall 2018.
In what could soon land New Brunswick a Top 10 spot, there is talk about a multibillion-dollar refurbishment of the Mactaquac hydroelectric facility northwest of Fredericton. NB Power has invited citizens to share what’s most important to them about the future of the Mactaquac station in a process that will help shape a decision planned for 2016. The station is expected to reach the end of its service life by 2030 because of expansion problems with its concrete structures. NB Power has identified three possible options for the station, each costing as much as $3 billion.
The territories saw a significant increase in participation in the past year across all sectors. Along with the Northwest Territories’ $903.5-million Giant Mine Remediation Project (No. 53), the list gained the $751-million Stanton Territorial Hospital Renewal Project in Yellowknife (No. 63) and Nunavut’s $418.9-million Iqaluit International Airport (No. 96).
Giant Mine is an abandoned gold mine in the Northwest Territories, which operated from 1948 until 1999 within the city of Yellowknife. In June 2015, the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories established an oversight body for the project. Establishing an independent oversight body is a key requirement of the 2014 Giant Mine Remediation Project Environmental Assessment. The oversight body will provide guidance and independent advice on the project and ensure Northerners have a direct voice on a broad range of matters concerning the remediation project.
To help boost economic development in Canada’s North, governments are putting money into significant transportation projects outside of the Top100. The $299-million, 137-kilometre Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway (No. 116) will link the two communities currently only served by ice road, barge, and air. This new highway will also help decrease the cost of living in Tuktoyaktuk by enabling goods to be shipped year round by road, increase opportunities for business development, reduce the cost of job-creating onshore oil and gas exploration, and strengthen Canada’s sovereignty in the North. Construction began in 2014 and is planned to end in 2018. The federal government is contributing up to $200 million toward the project, and the territory is contributing $99 million.
In August 2014, the Government of Canada also broke ground for its $189-million Canadian High Arctic Research Station (No. 142) in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. The station will be a world-class, multidisciplinary facility that will anchor a year-round research presence in Canada’s Arctic to serve Canada and the world to advance Arctic science and technology issues. EllisDon, in joint venture with NCC Dowland Construction Ltd., was awarded the contract to manage its construction. It is scheduled to open on July 1, 2017, Canada’s 150th anniversary.