Kingston City Council’s Jim Neill urges residents to vote on Princess Street.
It had all the trappings of an election. There were lawn signs, TV commercials, and door-to-door campaigners. The local media solicited the views of both politicians and citizens as everyone scrambled to become informed before the vote.
Saturday Kingston residents got the opportunity to express their preference on whether a proposed new hospital facility in their community was going to be entirely public or be under a 30-year finance and maintenance contract with a private for-profit consortium.
While this election wasn’t conducted by Elections Ontario or Elections Canada, it had the feeling of being the real deal. Citizens were given the opportunity by the Ontario Health Coalition to consider a private or public option even if the result will be non-binding.
After five weeks of public debate, the answer was clear. 96% of the 9,885 votes cast at more than 50 polling stations said yes to keep the new hospital entirely public.
We have had one “official” election on this issue before. In the 2003 provincial election Dalton McGuinty opposed privatizing public infrastructure, campaigning against two “public-private partnership” (P3) hospital deals set up by then Premier Ernie Eves.
Like the results in Kingston, in 2003 the public instinctively bridled against the idea of privatizing key elements of Ontario’s public infrastructure. It helped give McGuinty the first of his two back-to-back majorities. Ontarians were already aware of what a bad deal the province got from privatizing Highway 407. They were worried about the impact of deregulation and privatization of electric power, particularly after a devastating outage in August of that year that took out much of the continental northeast.
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Tagged AFP, Chris Cormier, Hospital privatization, Jim Neill, John Gerretsen, Kingston P3 plebiscite, Mark Gerretsen, Ontario Health Coalition, Public Private Partnerships, Royal Ottawa Health Group, William Osler Health Centre
Health care is not the only public service to experience reckless ventures into private delivery of key components.
The Auditor General of Ontario (AG) raises numerous questions about costly private delivery of public services in his recent review of Metrolinx, the regional transportation planning body in the Greater Toronto Area.
Among the findings in Jim McCarter’s 2012 annual report –
- Metrolinx’s Presto Card is among the most expensive transit fare card systems in the world, yet it does little more than substitute as a fare purse.
- The airport-downtown rail link was delayed after the private partner in the public-private partnership (P3) had to pull out due to questions raised by its financial backers over optimistic ridership projections. The projected high cost of fares is anticipated to weaken ridership. The P3 was eventually abandoned.
- Cost have dramatically increased on the Union Station revitalization project – the construction being handled by Vanbots, a division of Carillion Construction, one of the consortium partners presently bidding on the new Kingston hospital to replace that city’s aging mental health facilities.
- Metrolinx is using the P3 model for a three kilometre spur line that connects to the GO line from the airport. The auditor notes that the P3 option was $22 million more expensive, justified by the now familiar “risk” calculation of $42 million on a $128.6 million project. Like the William Osler Hospital, the auditor raises questions about the methodology used to calculate such risk and justify the more costly option.
- The consulting firm used to evaluate the risk on the spur line project won the bid to provide engineering and technical advisory services to support planning and procurement for the project.
By now this mess is all beginning to sound very familiar.
Dalton McGuinty initially ran an election in opposition to Tory plans to build two P3 hospitals in Brampton and Ottawa. In power, he not only signed off on those deals with only superficial changes, but he embarked on more than 30 more such projects in the hospital sector alone. Ontario now represents more than half of all P3 projects in Canada.