The Conservative government’s federal budget was full of bad news for water and other public infrastructure. The budget champions the privatization of municipal infrastructure projects and sets up a new federal office to peddle P3s.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that P3s are more expensive, less effective, and unaccountable the federal budget institutionalizes privatization as the preferred route for public investments in infrastructure.
Municipalities and provinces will be forced to show that they have ‘fully considered’ public-private partnerships as a condition of receiving any funding from the new “Building Canada” fund and from the gateways and border infrastructure fund, which amount to $11 billion over 7 years.
The Building Canada Fund doesn’t include any additional funding, but is just a repackaging of currently planned infrastructure funding. The budget also includes $25 million over the next five years for a new federal office to identify and implement infrastructure P3s.
As if this isn’t enough, the Harper conservatives are creating a new fund for P3 (Public-Private Partnership) projects with over $1.25 billion during the next seven years to essentially bribe governments to start “innovative public private projects” by providing 25 per cent of their cost, awarded on a ‘merit basis’.
The funding is a perverse acknowledgement that P3 projects can’t stand on their own merit. The federal government is planning to spend over $1.25 billion of the public’s money to bribe local and provincial governments to privatize public services.
The budget also includes a so-called “National Water Strategy”, but just calling something a strategy doesn’t make it one. CUPE’s full budget analysis is here. There’s also analysis of the budget’s impact on infrastructure and water.