The SuperBuild Corporation represents…an approach anchored firmly in the belief that public-private partnerships can help build public infrastructure in the province in the most cost-effective and productive manner possible. Ernie Eves, Minister of Finance, December 2000 1
Our mandate is to help the provincial government and its broader public sector partners be more strategic and be more creative in the financing and management of its physical assets. David L. Lindsay, President and CEO, Ontario SuperBuild Corporation.2
Over the past year, we have heard that Ontario will benefit from the “largest capital investment in Ontario’s colleges and universities in more than 30 years” 3. Public and private “SuperBuild” funds have been allocated to renew our decaying infrastructure on campus. SuperBuild Corporation forecasts $1 billion to be spent in PSE over five years, together with $800 million in private investment. Recently, the Ontario government released a report of SuperBuild’s first year.
As CUPE members on campus, we are in a good position to evaluate the effects of the Harris government’s policy on infrastructure renewal ourselves. If we were to write a report on SuperBuild what would we say? Is SuperBuild all it’s cracked up to be?
Before we begin to answer that question, lets look at the government’s arguments.
Ontario Government’s Case for Public-Private Partnerships in PSE
1. Since the early 1980s, public investment (in infrastructure) has lagged behind economic growth and demand for services.4
The reason we have an ‘infrastructure deficit’ is because the Federal and Provincial governments have reduced spending dramatically over the past decade or more. Instead of renewing our public assets, governments have directed resources to increase the profits of international bankers, and to tax-cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy.
2. The government intends to make capital investment more accountable and strategic.
The SuperBuild infrastructure project actually makes University administrations less accountable to the University community. Eligibility for infrastructure renewal is based on narrowly defined, business-driven criteria. Furthermore, the SuperBuild contributes to the centralization of power in the Ontario Cabinet. As the SuperBuild 2000 report boasts,
for the first time in Ontario, all provincial infrastructure policy, investment and capital planning decisions are consolidated under a single Cabinet committee.5
In Ontario, public-private partnerships and capital infrastructure projects are now directed by the Cabinet Committee on Privatization and SuperBuild.
3. The government will establish public-private partnerships and review the ownership of public assets and services.6
The Ontario government reports that 51 percent of Ontario’s infrastructure stock is held in public hands. Corporate boards, stock-holders and entrepreneurs want to make profits. Because the services we provide in the public sector are so valuable, corporate leaders want them to be transformed into private wealth. It’s as though private business is offended by the very existence of any productive activity not disciplined by the market.
Public assets and private profits- What a partnership!
SuperBuilding PSE in Ontario: What do we think?
“Investment”, “change” and “best-practices” in public asset management are the key words the government uses to describe the goals of these SuperBuild projects.
- Are these the words we would use to describe what is needed to renew public education in Ontario?
- If not, what words describe our goals?
The government is evaluating all aspects of the public sector “to determine where the private sector can deliver higher quality services at a lower cost to taxpayers”.7
- When we look around our workplaces do we see evidence that privatization is increasing quality of service?
- What does cost-cutting actually mean on campus?
The government says that from now on, Universities and Colleges will have to compete with one another for funding on the basis of market-driven criteria (eg. student loan repayment rates; employment rates after graduation; graduation rates; ability to attract private investment partners; ability to attract private research money; efforts to contract-out services)
- What effect does this competition have on our workplaces?
What is the story of privatization behind these SuperBuild projects on your campus?
- Brock University: New Academic Complex
- Carleton University: Expansion and renovation of laboratories and classrooms
- University of Guelph: Advanced Learning and Training Centre
- Lakehead University: Advanced Technology and Academic Centre
- Laurentian University: Reading Room and Computer Centre
- McMaster University: Business and Arts expansion project
- University of Ottawa: Health Sciences addition and conversion of space
- Queen’s University: Chernoff Hall chemistry building and School of Business renovation
- Ryerson Polytechnic University: Centre for Computing and Engineering
- University of Toronto: Health Sciences Complex
- Trent University: Faculty of arts and sciences academic facilities
- University of Waterloo: multi-facility expansion
- University of Western Ontario: accessibility and quality project; class room renovations; London Biotechnology Incubator
- Wilfrid Laurier University: northwest campus renewal and expansion
- University of Windsor: multimedia learning centre and dramatic art project
- York University: Schulich School of Business/ Faculty of Education
- Algonquin College-Carleton University: joint undergraduate degree program in information technology
- Fanshawe College-University of Western Ontario: communication, information and multimedia studies
- George Brown College-Ryerson Polytechnic Centre for Studies in Community Health
- Georgian College-York University collaborative programming
- Humber College-University of Guelph: Centre for Advanced Education and Training
- St. Clair College-University of Windsor integrated engineering and technology learning program
- Seneca College- York University Technology Enhanced Learning Building
- Sheridan College-University of Toronto (Mississauga) facilities for program in communication, culture and information technology
- Sir Sandford Fleming-Trent University co-operative ventures
1.Ontario SuperBuild Corporation, “Building Ontario’s Future: A SuperBuild Progress Report”, December 2000, p.3.
2. SuperBuild Progress Report, p.3.
3. SuperBuild Progress Report, p.11.
4.SuperBuild Progress Report, p.8
5.SuperBuild Progress Report, p.6.
6.SuperBuild Progress Report, p.7-8.
7. SuperBuild Progress Report, p.9.