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CALGARY - Using a public private partnership (P3) model to build new roads in Calgary would add costs and hide debt from the public.

That was the verdict of CUPE Alberta President D’Arcy Lanovaz, after Infrastructure Minister Lyle Oberg hinted at the possibility of using the P3 model for a new road connecting Deerfoot Trail to the Trans-Canada.

“If the government goes down this path, they are taking a wrong turn,” said Lanovaz. “P3s have been found to add costs, and keep debt off the books.”

Lanovaz said Calgarians should be leery of P3s after the Calgary Courthouse project went $200 million over budget. “The project cost went so far out of whack that the government had to cancel the P3 and continue as a conventional project.”

While Lanovaz said he supports the building of a new road, he says there are more honest ways to do it.

“There is no question the growth of Calgary forces us to build more infrastructure,” said Lanovaz. “But P3s allow the government to pretend they are not on the hook for paying the costs, and that’s just not true.”

“Under a conventional model, the government amortizes the payments over a number of years. In the P3 model, taxpayers pay a higher amount to a private company, and the government gets to pretend that it’s not a liability.”

“It’s a way for government to go into debt without getting caught.”