Friday, November 24, 2006

Poor public policy

One of the more dangerous parts of the Cons' economic plan has apparently been largely ignored - and I'd have missed it as well if not for an off-hand remark in CJME's otherwise-woeful coverage. But the Cons are apparently determined to spend public money through public-private partnerships (P3s), despite the track record of inefficiency and secrecy associated with P3s:
Some provinces are implementing P3 projects and have already started to put in place the structures that will allow them to harness the opportunities provided by P3s in helping to renew public infrastructure and improving the delivery of related public services. For example, in recent years public agencies, such as Partnerships British Columbia and L’agence des partenariats public-privé du Québec, were set up to provide expert services to public bodies in evaluating the feasibility of P3 projects and to facilitate the negotiation, conclusion and management of partnership contracts.

For its part, Canada’s New Government intends to establish a federal P3 office that will facilitate a broader use of P3s in Canadian infrastructure projects. The Government will also encourage the development and use of P3 best practices by requiring that P3s be given consideration in larger infrastructure investments that receive federal program funding.
I won't repeat for now the extensive set of problems which has already surfaced with respect to P3s in the past. But it's worth pointing out that the one government office which the Cons are happy to set up now (and presumably expand later) is one whose effect is to put the government at the mercy of private actors in delivering essential services, while also inflating costs in the long run. And while that fits well with the Cons' plan of declaring immediate gains with no attention paid to the long term, that's bound to be as much a losing strategy for the federal government as it's already proven to be in B.C. and elsewhere.

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