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Technorati Profile To the editor, Edmonton Journal
Re: P3 community ‘unique in Canada’, 25 June, p. A3

The Alberta government’s plan to privatize a Fort McMurray subdivision through a public private ‘partnership’ capitalizes on a community in crisis to promote a flawed solution.

The problem is well-known. Unchecked growth, fueled by the ever-expanding oil sands industry, has created a community flailing through exponential growth. Public planning, investment, and oversight are needed to bring the situation back under control. A balance must be struck that meets the socio-economic needs of the community as a whole, protects the environment, and champions transparency and accountability.

Grafting a privatized P3 suburb onto an already problematic situation will create something straight out of a mad scientist’s lab. Will a corporate-built and corporate-run FrankenCity operate beyond the reach of the democratically-elected city council? Issues of accountability and community control top the long list of problems this P3 will create.

What’s more, the plan lacks any fiscal sense. Private financing will drive up project costs, as will the multitude of other expenses associated with the tendering, bidding, and oversight of a P3 project. Meanwhile, the province is flush with ample surplus to publicly finance the infrastructure and services so desperately needed and the municipality can borrow more cheaply than the private sector. Public financing would keep costs in check while eliminating some altogether. Never mind that a wholly public approach would allow Fort McMurray more control over its own future.

The wishes of privatization proponents like the Fraser Institute - which last year issued a report urging the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to privatize new infrastructure developments - appear to be coming true. The report’s authors suggest P3s offer an answer to the infrastructure shortages that bottleneck further expansion in the oil sands industry. In whose interests could they be arguing? Squint through the lofty proposals and it’s obvious the price will be too high. In addition to the social and economic problems P3s create, unchecked growth will have serious environmental consequences. Just ask those living downstream from oil sands production.

This is a plan that must be stopped before a shovel hits the ground.

Paul Moist
National President
Canadian Union of Public Employees