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  • Report looks at captured nature of BC’s Oil and Gas Commission August 6, 2019
    From an early stage, BC’s Oil and Gas Commission bore the hallmarks of a captured regulator. The very industry that the Commission was formed to regulate had a significant hand in its creation and, too often, the interests of the industry it regulates take precedence over the public interest. This report looks at the evolution […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Correcting the Record July 26, 2019
    Earlier this week Kris Sims and Franco Terrazzano of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation wrote an opinion piece that was published in the Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun, Winnipeg Sun, Ottawa Sun and Toronto Sun. The opinion piece makes several false claims and connections regarding the Corporate Mapping Project (CMP), which we would like to correct. The […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Rental Wage in Canada July 18, 2019
    Our new report maps rental affordability in neighbourhoods across Canada by calculating the “rental wage,” which is the hourly wage needed to afford an average apartment without spending more than 30% of one’s earnings.  Across all of Canada, the average wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment is $22.40/h, or $20.20/h for an average one […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Towards Justice: Tackling Indigenous Child Poverty in Canada July 9, 2019
    CCPA senior economist David Macdonald co-authored a new report, Towards Justice: Tackling Indigenous Child Poverty in Canada­—released by Upstream Institute in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)—tracks child poverty rates using Census 2006, the 2011 National Household Survey and Census 2016. The report is available for […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Fossil-Power Top 50 launched July 3, 2019
    What do Suncor, Encana, the Royal Bank of Canada, the Fraser Institute and 46 other companies and organizations have in common? They are among the entities that make up the most influential fossil fuel industry players in Canada. Today, the Corporate Mapping Project (CMP) is drawing attention to these powerful corporations and organizations with the […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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P3 or No Federal Funding: A Third Option for Regina Wastewater?

The Queen City’s water debate has boiled over since I last blogged about it. City Council decided to build a new wastewater-treatment facility as a public-private partnership (P3), but a group of concerned citizens gathered 24,000 signatures to force a referendum on whether to “publicly finance, operate and maintain the new wastewater treatment plant for Regina.”

There has been much debate about the City’s anti-democratic tactics as well as the substance of the P3 proposal. The City Clerk overstepped Saskatchewan’s Cities Act in a desperate attempt to invalidate the petition. Since Council conceded that it would hold a referendum, the City has been pouring resources into the (pro-P3) “No” campaign.

Both sides of the debate seem to have accepted the premise that federal funding is tied to the project being a P3. The “No” campaign contends that rejecting the P3 means rejecting up to $58.5 million (a quarter of project costs) from the P3 Canada Fund.

The “Yes” campaign has argued that public financing, operation and maintenance is a better deal even without federal support. In Thursday’s Leader-Post, the Old Man noted that the promised P3 Canada Fund grant would not even offset the profit and higher interest charges incurred by the private partner.

Interestingly, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s recent Leader-Post commentary did not state that the P3 Canada Fund is the only federal money available. He indicated that the City chose the P3 option and then applied to P3 Canada. That begs the question of why the City couldn’t decide against the P3 option and then apply to a different federal infrastructure fund.

As I point out in the current edition of Prairie Dog magazine, the 2013 federal budget unveiled a new Building Canada Fund, which does not strictly require P3s, the month after City Council chose the P3 option.

The classic Big Lebowski line, “New shit has come to light!,” seems appropriate to a debate about sewage. So, did City Council revisit its decision in light of this new shit?

The Mayor tells Prairie Dog, “That doesn’t come into play until the current Building Canada Fund is finished and that doesn’t happen until at least 2014. So we’re looking well into the future.”

It’s not true that we have to wait for the existing Building Canada Fund to deplete. Already-committed money will continue flowing from it for years after the new Building Canada Fund becomes available in 2014. (See the “Existing program funding” line in Table 3.3.1 of the federal budget.)

The 2014-15 fiscal year is only seven months away. It’s not clear that Regina would get P3 Canada money any sooner than that, since Ottawa will not write the cheque until after construction starts.

In any case, the timing of the federal contribution is not critical. Borrowed money will cover the project’s upfront costs and be repaid from utility bills over the coming decades. Whether those multi-decade loans are locked in at the City’s AA+ interest rate or at a private partner’s higher interest rate is far more important than whether the federal cheque arrives in 2013, 2014, 2015 or even 2016, when the new plant must be operational.

P3 apologists are trying to characterize a “Yes” vote as turning away federal funding. In fact, voting “Yes” would give the City of Regina a strong democratic mandate to seek federal funding without P3 strings attached, which is entirely possible within Ottawa’s existing fiscal framework.

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Comments

Comment from Thomas Bergbusch
Time: August 28, 2013, 9:14 am

Excellent summary.

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