Road construction in Montreal

The bottom line is that municipalities should be wary of pursuing P3s. They are neither the best, nor the only option.

For municipalities that do choose to consider a P3, the following ten questions are crucial in terms of protecting public services, local democracy and the public interest.

Mayors and councillors should raise the following questions if staff, consultants, or provincial or federal P3 agencies propose public-private partnerships to deliver local infrastructure projects:

  1. Will there be full public consultation about the project, including the question of whether the project should be publicly or privately delivered?
  2. Will elected officials be fully informed about the alternatives and be able to speak freely about the information they receive concerning development of the P3?
  3. Have the full, lifetime costs of delivering the project through a P3 been calculated and compared to public alternatives delivering the same level and quality of service and will the detailed information and calculations be made public?
  4. How important are assumptions of risk transfer in the P3 proposal and could any promised risk transfer instead be delivered through a public procurement process that involved a fixed price contract?
  5. Will the municipality be responsible for guaranteeing the private sector’s revenues? Who will be liable for cost over-runs, or project deficiencies?
  6. Does the municipality have the capacity and resources to properly evaluate, administer and monitor a contract of the length, scale and complexity of the P3?
  7. Does the P3 permit the municipality the flexibility to make future changes in service delivery or other public policy decisions, to end the P3 in the procurement stage and to terminate the contract if it is not meeting the public interest?
  8. Are any private consultants involved in the project truly independent? Are they members of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships? Do they represent potential P3 bidders in any way? Have they profited in any projects from the delivery of P3s?
  9. What impact will the P3 have on the local economy and on workers’ jobs, pay and benefits?
  10. What are the prospects of small and medium-sized local businesses bidding on the project?

Download a copy or order print copies of Asking the right questions: A guide for Municipalities considering P3s.

Photo: Construction by Doug is licensed under CC CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.