Kick-Starting Public Sector Construction - Bill 73, Alberta’s Infrastructure Accountability Act

It goes without saying that the pandemic has had a serious impact on private sector construction; however, often overlooked is the impact it has had on the growth of public infrastructure, and in turn public sector construction.

In October 25, 2021, Alberta’s Minister of Infrastructure introduced Bill 73, the Infrastructure Accountability Act (“Bill 73”), which according to the Government of Alberta was introduced to guide government decision-making around capital projects to support jobs and the economy, as well as provide Albertans with the public infrastructure they need.

If passed, Bill 73 will set out a framework to guide how capital projects are prioritized, and outline the development of a 20-Year Strategic Capital Plan to guide the government’s long-term infrastructure decisions.

More specifically, Section 4 of Bill 73 sets out six criteria that the government will be required to consider when evaluating capital planning submissions and projects. Projects would be evaluated based on how they:

  • address health, safety, and compliance needs – Is the project expected to decrease risks to the health, safety and security of Albertans or increase compliance with health and safety legislation?
  • align with government priorities and strategies – the extent the project aligns with the government’s strategic and business plans (this broad criteria preserves the government’s ability to prioritize among capital projects, sectors or otherwise).
  • foster economic activity and create jobs – the extent the project is expected to have a positive economic impact.
  • improve program delivery and services – the extent project will improve delivery of programs and services (further consideration will have to be paid to whether “delivery” will be interpreted literally; i.e. transportation infrastructure, or broadly to include such things as energy infrastructure).
  • consider life cycle costs and whether it will generate a return on investment – the affiliated long terms costs and returns on projects.
  • enhance the resiliency of communities – the extent projects will minimize the impact of economic downturn, protect Albertan’s assets from natural disasters, provide remote communities core infrastructure, enhance culture and heritage, as well as improve social and environmental circumstances. 

In addition to setting out the consideration criteria for public works, Bill 73 establishes: a framework for developing the annual Capital Plan by outlining the roles and responsibilities of ministers involved; formalizes a committee to advise on the Capital Plan; and legislates the development of a 20-year strategic plan to be released within one year of the corresponding Act coming into force (and an update of said plan every 4 years).

Construction Considerations and Why Members of the Industry Should Care

When considered in the context of the recently proposed changes to lien legislation (see Bill 37 – previously commented on by our office), Bill 73 is a clear indication of Alberta’s focus on the construction industry and on the development of infrastructure in the province.

Should Bill 73 become law it will certainly play a role in public work RFPs (requests for proposals), which means that businesses interested in being on the forefront of these projects must ensure that their proposals align with the objectives and criteria set out in Bill 73. As such it is advisable that members of the construction industry interested in public works projects familiarize themselves with Bill 73 and the forthcoming strategic plan and Capital Plans.

With a great deal of experience effectively navigating construction legislation, the construction law team at McLennan Ross LLP can answer any questions on Bill 73 or assist in proactive planning.

At the time of publishing, Bill 73 is still at the stage of second reading in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.