With no value for money evidence, the government confirmed today it will plow ahead with a plan to use a privatized P3 scheme to bulk-build children’s schools.
“P3s cost more, and they mean delays before building can even begin,” said Trent Wotherspoon, NDP deputy leader and education critic. “This private rent-a-school approach has been tried in other places – including in Nova Scotia and Alberta – and it has been abandoned in those jurisdictions because it costs more. The government is ignoring evidence, and certainly ignoring good financial sense to plow ahead with its P3 schools scheme.”
With P3s, Saskatchewan taxpayers will still pay the full price of the school plus higher interest costs financed through a high-interest private firm instead of a bank. Taxpayers will also pay for the private corporation’s profit margin on the project, plus a decades-long maintenance contract with the corporation. Taxpayers are often also required by P3 contracts to pay out millions to earn full control of the building when the contract with the private firm expires.
“Saskatchewan needs new schools – families need them now, and taxpayers need them built in a financially responsible way,” said Wotherspoon. “This government should stop pushing its P3 agenda, and get shovels in the ground now on schools we own and operate ourselves.”
Wotherspoon also noted that the bulk-buying approach for P3 schools in other jurisdictions has resulted in the schools not meeting community needs. Children’s teams and clubs have been shut out, daycares have been disallowed and schools have been built too small for growing neighbourhoods with portable classroom additions forbidden by the private partner.
In December, the government voted against a common sense NDP bill which would have made P3s transparent, and helped prevent bad deals for taxpayers. The Public-Private Partnership Transparency and Accountability Act, called for an independent accountability watchdog on each P3, and would have required at least three bidders before a corporation could be chosen. The law would also have required an economic analysis and the full price tag of the project – including the cost of credit – to be reported to taxpayers.
The NDP has also raised concerns that by bundling schools, local contractors and construction companies could be shut out.