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Double the total cost, exaggerated toll costs, loss of public expertise and control, risk of slippages

Montreal – Double the total cost, exaggerated toll costs, loss of public expertise and control, risk of slippages. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is sounding the alarm over the potential risks of the PPP formula imposed by the Harper government for the new Champlain Bridge. Canada’s largest union is launching a publicity campaign on the matter on the radio and in Montreal area newspapers.

“The Harper government has proven once more to what extent it is out of touch with Quebec. It is ignoring the suspicious PPPs of recent years: rest stops, the CHUM and the CUSM among others. The choice of the PPP formula for Champlain Bridge was based on a report from a consortium of engineering firms that included Cima +, Dessau and BPR. The dice were loaded and we can expect the worse,” saidDenis Bolduc, secretary general of CUPE-Quebec.

From May 27 to June 16, CUPE will sponsor a series of advertisements in La Presse, Le Devoirand Le Courrier du Sud. Over the same period, advertisements will be heard on the radio at 98.5 FM chanting in a grating tone that the PPP “will cause us to lose control of our bridge and of our public expertise in bridge management. […] Everything will be pre-arranged with the private sector…”  

Radio ad
Print ad

CUPE represents approximately fifty employees, mainly engineers and technicians who work for Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc. Those employees help with the management, operation and maintenance of Champlain Bridge and other federal infrastructures. Their public expertise helps control the cost of work contracted out to the private sector. With the PPP formula for Champlain Bridge, they will be completely out of the picture.

“None of the economic arguments for the PPP holds water. Funding by the federal government would be much lower than by any private consortium, and over a 30-year period, that is a major difference. As for the supposed risk sharing, both the Quebec experience and research by Pamela Stapleton and John Loxley are clear: when things go wrong, the public partner always picks up the pieces. PPPs are therefore like monopolies that provide a guaranteed annuity to taxpayers,” according to Pierre-Guy Sylvestre, a CUPE economist and union advisor.

Finally, CUPE is concerned because, instead of assuming its responsibility to pay for a new bridge, the Harper government is leaving everything to a private consortium that will pass on the bill – and an inflated one at that – to Quebec users.

“Champlain Bridge will be particularly expensive to build because it spans the St. Lawrence Seaway, another federal infrastructure with a Canada-wide vocation. Logically, the bill should be paid by the federal government itself,” states Denis Bolduc.