Elite Networks in Public Private Partnerships: Mapping the PPP Enabling Field in Ontario, Canada

Chris Hurl, Valerie L'Heureux

Contact: chris.hurl@concordia.ca

This paper explores how Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are brokered through elite networks in Ontario, Canada. Drawing from the notion of the “PPP enabling field,” we explore how PPPs are fostered by a broad constellation of public and private organizations, which all work together to “create shared meanings and controls, thereby providing order to social action” (Jooste and Scott, 2012: 154; see also Penalva-Icher and Lazega, 2013). However, while the concept of the enabling field highlights the role of diverse actors in brokering relationships across political jurisdictions, economic sectors, and geographic regions, the relative connectedness of these actors across the field remains to be studied. Moreover, the focus of past research has tended to be on the role of institutional actors, neglecting how the circulation of individuals across institutions works to bind together the field. Drawing on Social Network Analysis and the previous work done on affiliation networks connecting political and corporate elites (Carroll and Sapinski, 2014), we take up two sources of data in demonstrating the connectedness of different actors through the PPP pipeline. First, drawing from the project agreements and value for money reports available via the Infrastructure Ontario website from 2006 to 2019, we explore the changing connectedness of institutional players over time, looking at the relationship between financial actors, construction, design, and maintenance companies, advisors, state agencies and non-governmental organizations active in that field. Second, we map these changing relationships against the career trajectories of senior officials across key institutions. By charting the circulation of senior officials across institutions over time, and exploring their relationship to dominant players in the project agreements, we hope to show how the PPP enabling field works to knit regional elites together into what Carroll and Shaw (2001) describe as a “political-cultural community”.

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