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Ottawa - Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty suggests that public-private partnerships (P3s) provide “fascinating financing arrangements” (Ottawa To Tap Private Sector For Public Project Funding - Nov. 7) - this is code for unaccountable lucrative contracts that lack transparency and inevitably cost more than first suggested. He should know better; governments can always borrow money more cheaply than any other group or corporation.

Outside of the ethical and moral dilemma of asking workers, through their deferred wages (pensions), to finance the privatization of accountable public works and infrastructure, there remains the dilemma of why P3s have not been able to deliver on their promises. There are many international examples of the utter failure of P3s, but I direct you to British Columbia and the Canada Line rapid transit project.

This is a case where protection of the procurement process trumped provisions of key information to elected decision-makers. This has not been a “fascinating” investment to the people of B.C.

Sometimes, even the most ardent privatization ideologue gets it right. In 2002, B.C. deputy finance minister Al Sakalauskas told a P3 meeting: “If you think the fast ferry file was a disaster, just try entering a 25-year service contract on a highway or hospital and getting it wrong.”

National President
Canadian Union of Public Employees