CUPE brought a strong argument for contracting in public services to municipal leaders gathered at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ annual conference in Winnipeg.

Mayor Billy Joe MacLean, city councilor Craig Sauvé and Charley Beresford on stage in front of large audience

In a CUPE workshop titled “From Outsourced to In-house: Save Money, Avoid Headaches,” a capacity crowd heard municipal officials and policy experts describe the benefits of delivering municipal services in house.

Charley Beresford, Executive Director of the Columbia Institute, shared highlights of the institute’s new report, Back in House: Why Local Governments are Bringing Services Home. Municipalities around the world are bringing contracted out services back in house, in a process known as remunicipalization.

The report analyzed 15 Canadian cases of remunicipalization, and found that in over 80 per cent of cases, in-house delivery saved money. Public delivery was also higher quality, more transparent, and more accountable.

“There will be some people who don’t like the change, but you’ve got to get over that,” said Mayor Billy Joe MacLean of Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia, in discussing his town’s move to bring snow removal services back in house. Contracting the service in saved more than $200,000 over three years, and improved service quality.

“We were getting complaints from citizens about their property. I said to my council, let’s do something about this,” said MacLean.

The benefits have been so significant that Port Hawkesbury is planning to move its contracted out garbage collection back in house.

Contracting in has other positive outcomes, some of them unanticipated. A number of boroughs across the City of Montreal have recently brought various services, including sidewalk maintenance, back in-house.  “We noticed that the in-house cost drove down the cost of the service in the private market,” said Montreal city councillor Craig Sauvé.

With pressure on municipalities to deliver quality services with budgets that are stretched, privatization through contracting out can be a tempting option. But, as Back in House finds, promised cost savings are not proving to be as advertised.

“The advice I have for other municipalities is that in-house service delivery is the best way to reduce costs,” concluded MacLean.

As part of our ongoing work to promote the value of publicly-delivered services, CUPE helped fund the production of the Columbia Institute report Back in House.