Jim – it’s you who loves P3s, not us

The Honourable Jim Flaherty
Minister of Finance
House of Commons Centre Block Building – Room 435-S
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Dear Jim  –

We get it. You love public-private partnerships, or as most like to call ‘em, P3s. The sound of big business rushing in and signing great big multi-million and multi-billion dollar contracts with governments to privately finance, build, maintain and sometimes operate hospitals, court houses, schools, bridges, transit systems – why it just makes your ol’ leprechaun heart sing.

Y’er getting all that “dead” corporate money moving, right?

We know these days that investors are nervous of even their own shadow, so governments need to give them sure-fire money makers at the public’s expense. It’ll buck ‘em up.

Paying it all back, well yeah, those are details best left for another day. What the heck – our children use this infrastructure too, so why shouldn’t they be prepared to pay for it over a generation or two? And if they can’t, there are always their children to pay after them. And their children’s children. Hold on, we’re getting a bit dizzy here.

With the over-inflated costs of these projects, we can hear the big profits clinking from here, even with our windows closed. And at the union we have good windows.

Here comes our beef:

On Tuesday you told a panel that the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre P3 was “incredibly successful” and that the “unions love it, the nurses love it, the physicians love it, the patients love it.”

The Royal Ottawa is a hospital we’re well acquainted with.

Evidently you missed our two reports detailing what it was like to move into a facility still under considerable construction to prove that P3s can be done on time and on (an already inflated) budget.

There was some choice reading in those reports too. You must have missed the bit where the old building fell into the new building. Ooops. Accidents will happen.

Or perhaps you missed the bits about who pays for razor wire in the exercise yard after the forensic patients decided to take themselves on a leisurely walk to the local mall. Ooops again!

Those first couple of years were really exciting. But it hasn’t stopped. Recently we had to push back when we found out that the private operator wanted to fob off the cost of a dietitian onto our clinical budget. Can’t these folks read their contract? Maybe they can’t. It is rather long and difficult to access.

What we want to know is, what makes the Royal Ottawa a P3 success? The province didn’t think so given they changed the P3 rules immediately afterwards.

Nor was the Auditor General of Ontario terribly enthused about the funny accounting used to justify the parallel deal signed to build and operate the William Osler Health Centre.

Jim – we gotta say we don’t love it.

None of the unions who represent members at the Royal Ottawa love the concept.

We doubt that the patients even realize the Royal Ottawa is a P3, let alone love it as you say. It’s not like the Royal Ottawa hangs a big P3 sign outside. They don’t arrive in the lobby and shout out “I love the smell of a privatized hospital facility first thing in the morning.”

They don’t leave secure in the thought they’ve improved an investors statement that month.

So what we really wanted to say is, stop saying this shit.

It’s not true. We don’t love this P3 or any other.

Yours truly,

Your union pals at the OPSEU Diablogue

Other P3 Stories you may be interested in:
P3 schemes lead to massive debt problem in the UK
P3s cost 16 per cent more — report
P3s deserve to be an election issue
Retired banker speaks out against P3s
Privatization in other sectors should be a warning for health care

2 responses to “Jim – it’s you who loves P3s, not us

  1. Thanks so much for this valuable piece. We badly need to hear these stories, because the reality of P3s NEVER comes to public attention here in Ontario. In fact, most people, including local politicians, don’t have a clue what they are and why they are such a bad idea.

  2. I read recently that P3s are, on average, 16% more expensive than if done solely by the government.. Of course, the Nasty Party doesn’t believe in facts interfering with their agenda.

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