Governing Infrastructure in the Age of the "Art of the Deal"

When and Where

Tuesday, February 15, 2022 12:30 pm to 1:45 pm
Zoom Conference Meeting


Mariana Valverde


The event is a part of the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law's Innovation Law and Policy Workshop. This workshop will take place via Zoom Conference Meetings


Many different types of organization provide public services or goods and build public works without being, strictly speaking, part of government. Such entities tend to be seen as more innovative than government proper, both because of their organizational autonomy and because they primarily use private-law techniques (contracts, mainly) and lay claim to private sector credentials. This article examines the presumed correlation between moves towards greater public-private hybridity in government and public sector innovation, using illustrative examples from Ontario and British Columbia, Canada. Combining interviews with professional infrastructure deal-makers, direct observation of public infrastructure workshops, and analyses of the documents that constitute infrastructure deals, we show that the quest to bring virtues and techniques associated with private enterprise to the delivery and governance of public goods and services often leads to a dialectical reversal. At first, bureaucratic rules do give way to the pursuit of more or less sui generis deals. But the entities that initiate deals and partnerships soon come to feel the need to standardize the process, which then leads to the return of standard templates and surprisingly rigid rules. [governance, public-private partnerships, transparency, public sector innovation]


Mariana Valverde will be talking about/from a forthcoming book with Routledge,

Infrastructure: New Trajectories in Law, forthcoming Spring 2022.

The book covers, in accessible language, financial and legal techniques commonly used to plan and deliver large infrastructure projects: audits, bonds, credit ratings, public-private partnerships, etc. It also reflects on the larger significance of the passing of ministries of public works in favour of infrastructure agencies such as Infrastructure Ontario, Metrolinx, and Partnerships BC.