Ottawa (16 Nov. 2021) — This week it was revealed that a consultant involved in numerous P3 privatization schemes has characterized a proposal for a judicial inquiry into the problems with a P3 for an Ottawa LRT line as an attack on all P3s.
In an email to CBC, Brian Guest of Boxfish Group wrote that the push for a judicial inquiry was “part of a long-term effort to besmirch the procurement model,” even though he acknowledged the “crummy performance” of the private consortium that is supposed to be responsible for building and maintaining the line.
The idea that a judicial inquiry into why a P3 privatization scheme is experiencing serious problems is seen as an attack on all P3s raises an important question. If P3 privatization schemes are as good as the privatization industry claims, what’s wrong with a judicial inquiry?
Secrecy an integral part of privatization
What the objections of a consultant involved in privatization schemes do show is how secrecy goes hand in glove with privatization. Even though the public are paying for privatized services, important information about how those services are run is kept secret. When contracts for P3s and other privatization schemes are released, the key details are missing.
It’s not hard to see why. When the details are made public, serious problems are often revealed. For example, the Auditor General of Canada and Auditors General in 5 provinces have all found that, in reports justifying the use of P3 privatization schemes, the numbers were manipulated to make privatization look better than it really was.
Who’s defending P3 privatization schemes
What the article on Brian Guest’s opposition to a judicial inquiry also illustrates is that many of those defending P3 privatization schemes have a personal interest in seeing more of them. According to the CBC article, “Guest has been one of the best-known consultants at Ottawa City Hall in the past decade, winning LRT consulting contracts worth millions of dollars.”
This is not unusual.
At the 2014 International Conference on New Forms of Privatization held by the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), one of the presentations looked at the different players involved in an Ontario Chamber of Commerce report calling for more privatization, and how those players profited from privatization. 7 years later that information is still all too accurate.
When we're facing a climate crisis, privatizing transit is a mistake
At a time when we're facing a climate crisis, we need to be doing everything possible to reduce emissions causing climate change. That includes getting more people to ride transit.
Because of the higher costs, lack of accountability and difficulty getting problems fixed, when P3 privatization schemes are used for transit routes, that is less likely to happen. For that reason all of us — not just people who rely on transit — have a stake in ending the use of P3s for transit projects.