Departmental Plan - Operating context, key risks and opportunities

Operating context: conditions affecting our work

The infrastructure gap. Infrastructure demand has outpaced investments for several decades. While the size of Canada's infrastructure gap is a matter for debate—in 2013 estimates ranged from $50 billion to $570 billion depending on the methodology usedFootnote 1—there is consensus that significant investments are needed to address it.  In recent years, all orders of government have been investing more in infrastructure than ever before. Their collective investments have helped reduce the average age of Canada's public infrastructure from 17.8 years in 2000 to 14.7 in 2013.Footnote 2

Climate change. Longer heat waves, more intense, frequent and extreme storms, thawing permafrost and rising sea levels threaten infrastructure across the country. The Parliamentary Budget Officer forecasts that over the next several years, the Government of Canada can expect weather-related disasters to cost the federal government an average of $902 million per year. Investing in smart, resilient infrastructure now will reduce vulnerability, increase capacity and make communities more resilient. The United Nations Development Program states that globally, every dollar invested in disaster mitigation saves $7 in disaster aftermath costs.Footnote 3

Cities. Over 80% of Canadians live in large and medium-sized cities, and these cities continue to grow. For example, between 2011 and 2016, Calgary and Edmonton grew 14.6% and 13.9% respectively.Footnote 4 Population growth, especially rapid growth, can increase congestion, population density and demand for services.

Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. The Government of Canada is committed to renewing Canada's relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. Indigenous Peoples represent one of the fastest-growing groups in Canada. First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples continue to make important and diverse contributions within Canada, and will play a vital role in the future success of our country. Investing in infrastructure priorities of Indigenous communities presents a significant opportunity to advance reconciliation and promote inclusive growth.

Data and innovation gap. Sound decisions are informed by strong evidence-based research and data. Yet Canadian infrastructure decision-makers are currently faced with a substantial infrastructure data gap. Many investment decisions tend to favour 'tried and true' approaches, which can be a barrier to successfully developing infrastructure that will meet the needs of tomorrow. More research and development is required, along with good program design and administration, if we are to make smart, innovative infrastructure that will contribute to sustainability, economic growth, improved performance in key sectors such as construction, and solve major societal challenges such as the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Key risks and opportunities: things that could affect our ability to realize our plans and achieve results

Key risks

Diminished ability to provide timely internal services solutions. Business pressures related to the implementation of new programs, government-mandated initiatives and the departmental commitment to continuous improvements are placing increasing demands on the Department's resources. Information Management/Information Technology, Human Resources, Finance and other services are all areas that could be affected by these pressures. This may then impact the Department's ability to provide timely supporting services and solutions, affecting ongoing service availability.

Inability to report meaningful investment results/outcomes. The ability to report a meaningful story on infrastructure investment outcomes depends on the ongoing collaboration with stakeholders and the capacity to collect, manage and share data. Effective internal processes, along with sufficient and qualified resources within the Department, are also required. Without meaningful program results, the quality of Infrastructure Canada's program evaluations may be affected, resulting in lost opportunities for continuous improvement.

Delays in bringing new federal bridges into service or failure to maintain the integrity of the existing Champlain Bridge. Various factors can impact the integrity of the existing Champlain Bridge or delay completion of new federal bridges, which could result in significant increases in costs. These factors include the impact of decades of heavy traffic, corrosion from road salts, potential acts of terrorism or natural disasters. Further, increased construction costs due to a fluctuating exchange rate could lead to significant cost overruns for the Gordie Howe International Bridge project. Ultimately, any of these factors could limit the movement of goods and people and have a negative impact on Canada's economy.

Inability to effectively implement Infrastructure Canada programs under the Investing in Canada plan. Three key drivers could impact the Department's ability to deliver its programs: internal capacity to deliver programs, stakeholder participation, and provincial/territorial/municipal capacity to cost share. Continued workload pressures and high employee turnover resulting in the loss of essential skill sets and knowledge may impede the Department's ability to effectively deliver programs. Cooperation among provincial/territorial/municipal partners and the capacity to cost-share could weaken, which could limit spending of program funding and delay project submissions, approvals and implementation. These issues could also have a negative impact on Canada's economy.


In 2018–19, the Department enters its first full fiscal year of administering the Integrated Bilateral Agreements and the Smart Cities Challenges. Both programs offer an opportunity to engage funding partners and recipients in a new way, focussing on results. Project proponents will identify the public benefits they pursue and will be given more flexibility on the ways to achieve them. Infrastructure Canada will integrate its databases and strengthen its research and policy-making functions to more effectively track progress towards results, enrich its conversation with funding recipients and enhance its reporting to Canadians.

Key risks


Risk Response Strategy

Link to the Department's
Core Responsibility

Link to mandate letter commitments or to government-wide and departmental priorities

Diminished ability to provide timely internal services solutions

  • Ensure adequate resources are available to deliver timely Information Management/Information Technology, Human Resources, Finance and other services to support new and ongoing business requirements
  • Seek alternate methods of delivering services
  • Maintain a strong relationship with Shared Services Canada and Public Services and Procurement Canada
  • Provide timely communication to employees to manage change
  • Ensure effective governance, planning and reporting mechanisms

Public infrastructure

Mandate letter: work closely with our Deputy Minister and her senior officials to ensure that the ongoing work of our Department is undertaken in a professional manner.

Departmental Priority 3: Instill a strengthened culture of measurement, evaluation and innovation. The Government of Canada is committed to using sound evidence for decision-making, having a strong focus on results and fostering innovation. To do this, Infrastructure Canada will support new research, monitor the impact of its investments, and promote innovation in infrastructure financing, planning and design.

Inability to report meaningful investment results/ outcomes

  • Develop a robust results and performance measurement strategy that allows meaningful reporting to Cabinet and Canadians
  • Ensure engagement and support from recipients/partners and stakeholders for measurable performance indicators
  • Increase internal capacity and provide training
  • Address tools and software gaps to improve results reporting.

Public infrastructure

Mandate letter: track and report on the progress of our commitments, assess the effectiveness of our work, and align our resources with priorities to get the results we want and Canadians deserve.

Departmental Priority 3: Instill a strengthened culture of measurement, evaluation and innovation.

Delays in bringing new federal bridges into service or failure to maintain the integrity of the existing Champlain Bridge

  • Continue to oversee the implementation of the public-private partnership contract
  • Monitor projects to ensure that the private partner conducts the work as agreed under the terms of the Project Agreement, including delivering the New Champlain Bridge by December 2018 and the rest of the Corridor in 2019
  • Ensure a strong federal governance structure so issues are discussed and decisions taken in a timely manner
  • Continue to work with the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, the State of Michigan, the U.S. Government, and other Canadian federal partners to support the advancement of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project by providing ongoing management support and helping to mitigate project risks.

Public infrastructure

Mandate letter: move forward on a toll-free replacement to the Champlain Bridge

Departmental Priority 2: Advance the New Champlain Bridge Corridor project and the Gordie Howe International Bridge project to contribute to the efficiency and safety of Canada's major gateways and trade corridors.

Inability to effectively implement Infrastructure Canada programs under the Investing in Canada plan

  • Continue to engage with provinces and territories and other stakeholders to prepare for the negotiation and signature of Integrated Bilateral Agreements under Phase 2 of the Investing in Canada plan
  • Use a risk-based approach to streamline the administration of the Investing in Canada plan allowing for more focused oversight for higher risk projects
  • Develop tools and explore options to address changing/evolving staffing needs of Infrastructure Canada.

Public infrastructure

Mandate letter: Develop a 10-year plan to deliver significant new funding to provinces, territories and municipalities.

Departmental Priority 1: Implement Investing in Canada, a long-term infrastructure plan that will deliver significant new funding for provinces, territories and municipalities to support inclusive and sustainable economic growth.


Footnote 1

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce. The Foundations of a Competitive Canada: The Need for Strategic Infrastructure Investment. (2013)

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Footnote 2

Statistics Canada, National Economic Accounts Division.

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Footnote 3

United Nations Development Program. "Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery." (2010).

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Footnote 4

Statistics Canada. "Population and Dwelling Count Highlight Tables, 2016 Census." (2017). Accessed August 30, 2017.

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