The public-private-partnership (P3) scenario preferred by the Harper government for the new Champlain Bridge could cost more than double than constructing it publicly. Civil engineer René Therrien presented a public solution estimated at $1.7 billion in comparison to the $5-billion or $6-billion figures being circulated for the P3 projects.
Mr. Therrien’s project, also detailed at www.solutionpontchamplain.com, will also be ecological notably because it will reuse the entire metallic structure – which is still sound – of the existing bridge. Based on the construction of roadways parallel to the existing structure, it would also practically eliminate traffic tie-ups that could be caused by construction.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which has considerable experience in regards to P3s, is very interested in this option.
“The only potential clear advantage of P3s, according to expert John Loxley, is the sharing of economic risk,” said Pierre-Guy Sylvestre, an economist in CUPE’s research department who attended the presentation.
“In the case of roadway infrastructure, the major risk is that of traffic: will the infrastructure be busy or not? For the Champlain Bridge, which is extremely strategic, the answer is obvious: it will be busy, that is certain. The risk of traffic is therefore a moot point, so there is no need of sharing it with a private partner.”
“The major downfall of P3s is that of financing because they cause the costs of large projects to explode. Our governments can always borrow at a much better interest rate than any large corporation. A Champlain Bridge constructed under a P3 will therefore pass along the extra costs to taxpayers because of higher interest rates.”
“All Quebec needs on this issue is a pragmatic and rigorous examination of the opportunities. It is difficult to explain the attraction of P3s for the Harper government other than for ideological reasons. Yet, in Quebec the P3 model is accumulating failure after failure, whether we look at the CUSM, CHUM, road closures, the OSM hall, or if we refer to the Quebec auditor general reports,” the economist said.
Finally, CUPE is concerned about the role to be played in the future by Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated. This corporation is responsible for managing, operating and maintaining the bridge itself. Its employees, represented by CUPE, have a vast amount of expertise.