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PENTICTON - CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill joined privatization experts Murray Dobbin and Stuart Murray at a well-attended town hall meeting sponsored by the Coalition for an Affordable Public Event Centre on September 6.

The coalition formed this spring to alert Penticton residents to concerns about affordability and privatization at a proposed new South Okanagan Event Centre. Penticton City council announced in June that it would build and operate the new centre as a public-private partnership (P3), with a private US company operating the new centre and taking over the existing Memorial Arena and the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. Voters will have their say in a referendum on September 16.

O’Neill heard from concerned residents and CUPE members in Penticton. “People have a lot of questions about why it is so expensive; what is not going to happen if all of the city’s resources go into this new centre; and maybe most important, why this is a public-private partnership.”

CUPE represents workers at Memorial Arena and the Trade and Convention Centre, and we know that communities often end up buying a pig in a poke with these P3s. Kingston Ontario city council just voted to have public management of a new multiplex. Penticton council needs to be sent a strong message to step back from this expensive P3 and that means Penticton residents should vote no on September 16,” says O’Neill.

Murray Dobbin, a respected author and journalist who has written extensively on public-private partnerships warned Penticton residents that they are likely to see a lower quality of service for higher costs.

Stuart Murray, a public interest researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, called on Penticton city council to recognize that it is a public-private partnership. Murray, who recently authored Value for Money? Cautionary lessons about P3s from British Columbia, said that among other things his study found that P3s are less cost-effective, timely and transparent than traditional publicly managed projects.