Earlier this month, the Toronto-Dominion Bank made a splash when it issued a report entitled “Creating the Winning Conditions for Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) in Canada.” It came soon after – in fact, right after – Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge suggested governments needed more private sector money for public works.
P3 cheerleaders hailed the report as justification to push the pro-P3 movement into overdrive. Those less enamoured of P3s were curiously absent from media reports, which featured little criticism or concern.
To be fair to the media, the report painted a very rosy picture. There was barely a quarter of a page about the “Risks of P3s.” Even that section barely mentioned (and gave no details of) the failures, or of the human cost that resulted. Instead, the report spoke of potential risks, and “challenges,” before quickly leading the reader into its “robust P3 model” for success.
The report, signed by Derek Burleton, a senior economist at the TD Bank Financial Group, trumpeted examples from British Columbia’s P3 experiments; such as the Canada Line transit system, the upgrade of the Sea-To-Sky highway, and the Abbottsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Health Centre.
Refusing to acknowledge evidence to the contrary, or concerns about these same projects recently detailed in a report by noted forensic accountant Ron Parks, Burleton did not hesitate to hail the Privatization B.C. experiment as a success, even while admitting that “the jury remains out.”
Increasingly, however, the jury is coming back. Research such as Parks’ confirms that P3s are more expensive than traditionally built projects, lack public accountability and transparency, and end up hitting the taxpayer where it hurts in the long run.
While the report repeatedly pins the source of most criticism on unions, there is mounting evidence from a variety of sources that P3s, which Burleton refuses to call privatization, carries serious risks for long-term negative impacts for society.