‘The Rise of the Public Service Industry,’ a report released by UNISON (CUPE’s sister union in the UK) has important lessons for Canada. It documents the consequences for government and taxpayers of relying on private companies to finance and provide public services.”The union is calling on Government to ditch its fair-weather friends in big business and call a halt to damaging privatisation, ” said UNISON president Dave Prentis..
The report investigates the economic cost of private financing and delivery of public services. Social, environmental and cultural costs are also highlighted. The report raises alarm bells about public services and infrastructure being tied to markets that are variable and liable to crash, leaving the public sector to pick up the pieces.
The trend of ex-senior bureaucrats becoming key players in private companies that are bidding on public services they were once responsible for, raises concerns about conflicts of interest, according to the report: “The reality is that the Private Finance Initiative and Public Private Partnerships are costing the country a fortune. It is a case of buying one hospital for the price of two, ” says Prentis. “The taxpayer would be rightly dismayed to learn that we have switched from a public sector that owns assets such as hospitals, prisons, land, equipment etc. to one that often leases them - paying a high price for doing so”.
For Canada, this report could come at no better time, as we prepare to go to the polls and choose our next government.
P3 privatization schemes here in Canada are modelled on the UK Private Finance Initiative. Public servants and elected officials should pay close attention to this report, and avoid making the same mistakes. Voters have an opportunity to support public services instead.