Manitoba’s largest union is encouraged by recent remarks by Premier Wab Kinew that the previous Conservative government’s plans to build new schools using the failed public-private partnership, P3, model is on the chopping block.
“The experience with P3s across Canada has been higher costs and no accountability to the public,” said Gina McKay, president of CUPE Manitoba. “The last government tried rushing P3s through, so we are glad to see Premier Kinew acknowledge that the former government’s ideological plan should be halted.”
Schools in Saskatchewan under the P3 model saw restrictions on what teachers could do in their classrooms, like putting art on the walls, and ended up costing four times more per school for maintenance than schools built the traditional way.
In Nova Scotia, P3 schools had to be “bought back” by the government because it was too expensive to keep the lease. The Auditor General in New Brunswick found the P3 school process was not transparent and did not prove P3 schools were cheaper. In 2022, the Conservative government of Alberta abandoned the P3 model for school construction.
CUPE Manitoba has been at the forefront of speaking against P3 schools, including organizing public town halls in Brandon that resulted in the previous government withdrawing plans to build P3 schools in 2018. However, the same government tried to push through more P3 schools right before losing the election.
“We are very encouraged that Premier Kinew has indicated his preference for traditional procurement for Manitoba’s schools, and we know Education Minister Nello Altomare has likewise shared concerns with P3s,” said McKay. “The last schools that were built in Manitoba were built the traditional way, without P3s, saving the province money and keeping our schools publicly owned and operated, so it only makes sense to scrap P3s altogether.”
The Manitoba NDP government has also promised P3 accountability and transparency legislation, which the previous government scrapped.
“P3s are unaccountable by design, so this new legislation should be a tool to prevent P3s from ever taking hold in our schools again,” said McKay. “Premier Kinew’s commitment to transparency is an excellent sign that Manitobans can look forward to a government that works for them.”