Two major water projects are moving ahead publicly in British Columbia, exposing the myth that only P3s deliver infrastructure on time and on budget. In 2001, community activists defeated a proposal that the Greater Vancouver Regional District’s new Seymour Capilano water filtration project be privatized. A similar community campaign scrapped P3 wastewater plans in Whistler last year.
The Seymour Capilano project is now well underway after normal, non-P3, procurement. The project is 60 per cent finished, and will open as scheduled next year. The capital costs are projected to be $566 million, coming in $34 million under the $600 million construction budget set in 2003.
In Whistler, where the wastewater treatment plan needs upgrading, the financial news is also good. City council has approved a $28 million construction contract that will complete most of the upgrades. The price tag is 11 per cent below engineering estimates of the cost. Whistler councilor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden pointed out that P3 promoters’ “dire warnings” about the project costing more in public hands “turned out not to be true”.
The community experience in Kamloops, BC is further evidence that public works best for water systems. Here, community pressure stopped water privatization in 2001. The publicly-operated plant opened in 2005, and is an award-winning facility.
These public successes stand in sharp contrast to major P3 projects now underway in BC, which have all turned out to be far more expensive than original estimates.