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Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are ventures where the private sector becomes a lead actor in the provision of public services. They may involve private sector involvement in financing, designing, building, operating and owning public services, facilities and infrastructure.

PPPs are part of a broader neo-conservative agenda that argues that all that is public should be privatized. PPPs are one step away from full privatization of public services.

According to the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships (CCPPP), there were 219 major public private partnerships in Canada by 1996. Of these, 62 were in the transportation field, 54 were in the waste/water/environmental area and the remaining 103 were in other areas of the public sector.

Pretty Package for a Bitter Pill

The term “public private partnerships” is disarming. “Partner” suggests a mutually beneficial relationship, bringing together the best of the public sector with that of the private sector. Government and corporations claim that this combination will limit public debt and create more efficient and cheaper services.

Dont be deceived by the words or the promises. The aggressive promotion of public private partnerships reflects government irresponsibility and corporate greed.

PPPs are often another way of contracting out public services. Instead of the usual short-term contracting out arrangements, these longer-term financing, leasing and ownership agreements move public services much closer to outright privatization. PPPs are privatization by stealth.

CUPE does not oppose the private sector doing business with the government and public agencies. Corporations have often designed and constructed public infrastructure including roads, bridges, schools and hospitals, and will continue to do so.

So, whats different about PPPs? Governments and corporations want to expand the role of the private sector to include the financing, operation and ownership of virtually all public services. Corporations want to build, operate and own our schools, provide our food and medical services in hospitals, treat and supply our water, provide our recreational services, process our taxes and administer our social welfare system. In short, the public sector has become a new “profit centre” for the private sector. The captains of industry have decided to first create and then ride the wave of the public services sell off.