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Edmonton Schemes to renew Alberta’s aging schools, highways and build new hospitals through public private partnerships (P3s) ignore the mounting evidence from across Canada and around the world says the Alberta President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Yvonne Fast.

In a letter to Premier Ralph Klein, Fast requests a meeting to outline the research CUPE has gathered over the past number of years.

“Not only do public private partnerships cost more money over the long run they seriously threaten public accountability and access,” said CUPE Alberta President Yvonne Fast. “If the government of Alberta is serious about examining the cost implications of P3 development they only need to look at a series of Auditor General reports from across Canada.”

Fast wrote to the Premier in response to the deliberate leak of Cabinet discussions today on the establishment of Capital Alberta, the body to oversee development of public private partnerships for infrastructure renewal.

“In New Brunswick the auditor general reported that one P3 school cost $900,000 more than it would have with public investment. In Great Britain, a P3 hospital cost a whopping 1.8 billion pounds more according to the British Medical Journal,” she said.

The letter to the Premier also reveals the serious threats to the quality of public services that result from partnerships with the private sector.

“Private interests don’t necessarily correspond to public needs,” she says. “Our research has found that decisions including public access to schools, the location of new schools and hospitals as well as staffing and service levels are typically handed to the private sector with no public input,” said Fast.

“The very nature of the agreements mean that important decisions affecting public services are kept secret to protect private interests,” she said.

In a series of studies both conducted and commissioned by CUPE, it has been revealed that the reason P3 development costs more relates to borrowing costs and long-term lease payments. Public borrowing costs and debt servicing cost are cheaper than rates available to the private sector.

“In these lease-back arrangements, the public never sees the total cost reflected in the budget, but they are certainly on the hook to make the payments. It is nothing more than an accounting slight of hand. And, there is a growing demand from Auditors General to revise the accounting rules so that taxpayers are made aware,” she added.

“What is of great concern is that these costs are going to be borne by school boards, municipalities and health regions. But, there is only one taxpayer. So, why would the government of Alberta decide to go this route when the evidence is so clearly stacked against public private partnerships,” she concludes.


CUPE is Canada’s largest union with over half a million women and men who provide public services. In Alberta, CUPE’s 31,000 members work in health care, municipalities, schools, colleges, universities, libraries, emergency medical services, social services and casinos. Visit our CUPE websites for more information www.cupe.ca and www.cupealberta.ab.ca

For further information:

Pam Beattie, CUPE Communications (780) 288-1230 (cellular)