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Never say the privateers can’t work to deadline. On the opening day of the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships (CCPPP) conference, media releases announced two separate reports touting the virtues of P3s. That’s on top of the CCPPP’s own poll results.

Consultants Ernst & Young’s contribution was titled “Issues Facing the Canadian P3 Market.” The report tapped the minds of “leaders in the P3 community”, who are optimistic that “a sustainable P3 market will develop within five years”. Participants tapped health care and transportation as the most promising sectors for P3 development.

The report’s interview list was a predictable mix of privateers and those facilitating privatization, including representatives from the CCPPP, pension investment fund Borealis, water privateers CH2M Hill, and executives from government-funded P3 agencies in British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario.

Participants in the survey called for “better managed deal flow” and a standardized process across the country for bidding on and negotiating deals.

The report had some encouraging news, flagged as ‘key issues’ by the respondents. In Ontario, P3s are “vulnerable to the political winds of change” despite being in favour with politicians and bureaucrats. Some of the interviewees also warned that if Canada can’t get its act together, we will lose our “market” for P3s to the US, where P3s are spreading rapidly.

The other report came from COMPAS. The report polled business leaders who appear to contradict some of their colleagues in the Ernst & Young report. These CEOs and “business leaders” said subways and “health-related facilities such as hospitals and waste-treatment facilities” weren’t appropriate P3 targets even though investment was needed.

The COMPAS group of interviewees identified seniors’ residences – which have a guaranteed stream of low-risk revenue – seaports, recreation facilities and coal or nuclear plants as their top P3 projects.

As an anonymous Alberta CEO put it “public-private partnerships are poorly defined and understood. It is more a buzzword than a policy. Suitability depends on the exact deal.”