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Ottawa city council is about to face off over two proposed P3 arenas. The city has announced a shortlist of bidders for the 15 to 25-year ice rink contract.

Among the bidders are several that don’t bode well for a stable facility: a consortium that includes the financially troubled Ottawa Senators, as well as multinational recreation giant Serco Facilities Management. Serco has overseen several failed recreation projects elsewhere in Canada, including Kindersley and Weyburn, SK, Cape Breton, and Ingersoll, ON. Serco’s latest venture is the privatization of driver testing in Ontario.

Some city councillors question the plan. “We’re guaranteeing the private sector isn’t going to experience any loss. I’m having trouble understanding what the city is getting out of it,” said one councillor. Another reminded council of a privatized Kanata recreation centre that was bailed out with public money after the company failed in 1991.

The Ottawa CUPE District Council has presented council with a wide-ranging brief on the dangers of P3s for municipal services. The city is considering other P3s, including a new P3 library.