The Quebec government is pushing ahead with plans to P3 every service and structure it can. While Treasury Board president Monique Jrme-Forget says P3s give the government another tool in its toolbox, she isnt fooling CUPE members or many others.
More than 700 people met in Montreal this month at a CUPE organizing conference against P3s. They discussed the dangers of P3s and developed an action plan to take them on. The governments plans to create a P3 agency, combined with changes to the labour code and a reorganization of bargaining units, set the stage for a massive sell-off of infrastructure and services built over the last 40 years.
The government is holding hearings into Bill 61, which would set up an agency to push P3s and its getting an earful. CUPE and other unions have presented evidence discrediting P3s and documenting numerous failures and cost overruns. There have already been major demonstrations, and more are planned.
The opposition is coming from many fronts. The provincial body that monitors access to information has warned that P3s will leave citizens in the dark about key contract information they could have accessed under public ownership and operation. A group dedicated to rehabilitating offenders is pointing out the pitfalls of for-profit jails in Britain, the U.S. and France. And Quebecs ombudsperson thinks the P3 plans threaten citizens rights. Jrme-Forget is also scrambling to assure the Quebec Federation of Municipalities that they wont be railroaded into P3s.
Others cant wait to sell off services. The Quebec Hospital Association, which supports P3s, is saying the bill should be scrapped because it is confusing and too bureaucratic. The association would rather cut right to the chase and begin privatizing hospitals. Plans are already underway for two new P3 hospitals in Montreal. And the Quebec City business groups want the bill expanded to cover public transit.
CUPE Quebec members plan to meet the P3 agenda head-on. Their action plan includes spreading the word about the dangers of P3s to members and the public, supporting local struggles against privatization and organizing for province-wide action including a possible general strike.