The Ontario Liberal government’s latest budget has taken up where the provincial Tories left off, announcing a scheme that pushes private financing and P3s for the province’s roads, recreation centers, schools, transit systems, bridges, hospitals and water systems.
The Liberal code for P3s is Alternative Financing and Procurement. But behind the fancy title, the plan is all about using private money – including workers’ pension funds – to finance P3 development of critical infrastructure projects. The result will be more expensive projects, as the higher costs of private borrowing combine with the drive for profits to inflate price tags.
While CUPE believes pension funds should play a role in infrastructure renewal, we are clear that any investment can only be in public projects. Sinking pension funds into P3s amounts to “gambling with our retirement funds on these risky projects,” says CUPE Ontario president Sid Ryan.
The Ontario Liberals campaigned against P3s during the 2003 provincial election. Since coming to office, they have flip-flopped dramatically, first by allowing two P3 hospitals to go ahead, and now with the current budget’s P3 infrastructure plans.
While provincial infrastructure minister David Caplan tries to downplay the role P3s will have, he told a recent Toronto Board of Trade luncheon that his government will “vigorously pursue opportunities with the private sector in the delivery and financing of public infrastructure.”
The provincial infrastructure plan makes joint trusteeship of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) even more important. CUPE members make up nearly half of the pension plan’s members. CUPE Ontario continues to fight for joint trusteeship and is coordinating with members of the teachers’ and hospital workers’ pension plans to stop any plan funds from going to P3s.
CUPE Ontario has also just released a poll showing most Ontario residents agree government, not private companies, should provide public services. Visit www.cupe.on.ca for the full results.