Response to P3 lobby: letter to the editor

Further to the P3 debate: CCPA Manitoba research and analysis is debunking corporate rhetoric and damaging public policy in Manitoba. 

On May 16th, CCPA Mb published “Shapeshifting P3s in Manitoba” an op-ed outlining the problems with Public-Private-Partnerships (P3) in Manitoba, published in the Winnipeg Free Press and Brandon Sun and available without a paywall in the link above. This was written after the Manitoba government announced they were using a P3 model to build nine schools. 

On May 31st, the president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships, Lisa Mitchell, had an op-ed published in the Winnipeg Free Press “Drop the Rhetoric: P3s Work“. Mitchell makes claims regarding the speed and costs of P3s, citing research by Irish academics. The P3 lobby is desperate to prove their worth, as they are citing studies that overall find fault with the P3 model. 

The following is a letter to the editor submitted by Molly McCracken, CCPA MB director refuting Mitchell’s claims. It has not been published to date. We are sharing it here to keep CCPA MB supporters and followers informed.

Response to op ed by Lisa Mitchell, published in the Winnipeg Free Press June 7, 2023. 

Upon further investigation, the evidence used by Mitchell to support their arguments for Public-Private-Partnerships (P3) based on the Irish experience of P3s, by O’Shea, Palcic and Reeves, is concerning. It finds:

a) that it is hard to conclusively determine Value for Money due to difficulty accessing P3 contracts despite making Freedom of Information Requests;

b) capitals cost for traditional public models are shown to be over the construction period only, whereas capital costs for P3 are spread over the 25-year contract period, therefore P3s appear to be less expensive when the Irish Office of the Comptroller and Auditor finds P3s are 13 – 19% more expensive; and

c) P3s have allocated higher funding to cover maintenance and life-cycle costs.

There is no reason a public model could not build in adequate maintenance funding.

O’Shea, Palcic and Reeves also published “Comparing PPP with Traditional Procurement: The Case of Schools Procurement in Ireland” where they find the P3 model imposes rigid constraints and fails to deliver value for money in comparison to a public build. These authors query arguments by P3 proponents that P3s are faster: “Whether or not PPP leads to faster overall delivery of infrastructure projects depends on the trade-off between potentially faster construction times versus the possibility of longer tendering periods”.

This research used by the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships shows that P3s are significantly costlier, not any faster, and lack transparency to taxpayers. Manitobans should be extremely critical of the provincial government adopting the P3 model for schools and public infrastructure.