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Public-private partnerships are a concern to me personally, and to CUPE as an organization. This week the Mayor of Winnipeg, Sam Katz, travelled to Ottawa to sing the praises of P3 development in the city I call home. In the piece below, I counter Katz’s arguments in favour of P3s.
~ Paul Moist

Read the original article entitled Katz pumps public-private deals (Winnipeg Free Press, October 24, 2012).

Re: Katz pumps public-private deals

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz is quick to praise public-private partnerships, but seems a bit slower when it comes to presenting facts. Mayor Katz appeared before a parliamentary committee to make the case for P3s. The only problem is he attempted to make his case without any evidence. “It’ll be in the mail” he says.

No one should be surprised. Winnipeg’s dabbling with P3s has been characterized by an astonishing lack of transparency. Even city councilors are not privy to full background reports or detailed number breakdowns, especially regarding risk transfer assessments.

CUPE has tried several times to get the Mayor to release information on the city’s backroom modeling of risk transfer in P3s, to no avail. The rational used by the city to justify its devotion to P3s is off limits to the public, and apparently was also off limits to the parliamentary committee.

While Mayor Katz raves about the cost-savings, time savings and risk transfer associated with P3s, the people of Winnipeg are paying more for bad decisions made with no transparency. The Mayor’s declaration that P3’s stretch infrastructure dollars is a fallacy – we end up paying more just further down the line. P3’s often have higher lifecycle costs, and saddle cities with long term debts.

Take the Charleswood Bridge P3 for example. Professor John Loxley, former head of the economic faculty at the University of Winnipeg, shows that the bridge project cost taxpayers much more in the long run. Higher interest rates and the high costs of preparing and evaluating the bids bumped up the cost significantly.

CUPE’s latest report Asking the Right Questions: A guide for Municipalities considering P3s outlines many of the other issues associated with P3s. CUPE economist Toby Sanger appeared in front of the same parliamentary committee to present CUPE’s considerable research on P3s.

We are always happy to share our information and finding with the public, and with all levels of government. When will Mayor Katz open the books to the public on P3s?

Yours truly,
Paul Moist
National President, Canadian Union of Public Employees