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Plans to build new roads in Alberta through public private partnerships will cost more and hide debt from the public. CUPE Alberta is criticizing the plans, saying the government is taking a wrong turn.

In a P3, taxpayers pay a higher amount to a private company and the government gets to pretend that its not a liability on their books, says CUPE Alberta acting president DArcy Lanovaz. Keeping the roads public lets the government amortize the payments over several years, keeping the costs lower and out in the open.

The provincial government is hinting at a P3 road in Calgary and has given the green light to one in Edmonton. Calgarians should be leery of P3s after development of a new Calgary courthouse went $200 million over budget. The government cancelled the P3 and continued with a public project.

The government plans to pay a group of corporations $987 million over 30 years to finance, build and maintain an 11 km stretch of road in Edmonton. The provincial government says it probably has a rough idea how much profit the contractors are making. More precise figures are secret, despite Klein government promises that the whole process is transparent.

An Edmonton journalist discovered that their comparison of the P3 versus a public project yielded a mere $4-million savings on the $987-million project. Built into the P3 is $75-million subsidy to the private sector in the form of a federal government infrastructure grant.

In late January, the Quebec government also announced two highways would be completed through P3s as part of a three-year, $3.1-billion investment in the provinces roads.