Saskatchewan is said to be one of Canada’s most active markets when it comes to construction projects that are built using the public-private partnership (P3) funding model, according to the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships (CCPPP).
The council was in Regina Thursday for a half-day seminar, explaining the benefits and success stories of using P3s. Both Regina Mayor Michael Fougere and Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison participated in an open discussion at the seminar. minister responsible for SaskBuilds, Gordon Wyant also served as the keynote speaker.
The council’s president and CEO Mark Romoff described how there are currently 237 P3 projects across the country. Some of the P3 projects in Saskatchewan include the new Regina Bypass and wastewater treatment plant, along with nine joint-use schools within the province.
He explained how the P3 model can work, if done correctly, and wants to take the message to communities across the country.
“It’s not for every project, but when it’s done for the right reason, all of the analysis has demonstrated that it’s produced really terrific economic returns,” said Romoff. “You want to do it when the conditions are right because if you don’t, then in fact you’re setting yourself up for failure.”
The P3 approach has drawn criticism. Some argue that P3s are actually more expensive than traditional builds. Critics also say P3s are less transparent, questioning value-for-money reports and the cost of risk built into contracts.
The Saskatchewan NDP opposition has been notably vocal, maintaining that P3s take companies from outside the province and even outside Canada, instead of using local Saskatchewan workers to do the job.
Some other provinces have tried using P3s, only to abandon them.
Romoff likens P3s to a mortgage. He explained when you have a mortgage you own the home, but in the case of a P3, if the roof leaks you can have the contractor come and fix that roof at no extra cost to you over the span of 30 years.
Romoff said it doesn’t guarantee the roof won’t leak, but it does mean the cost of the extra work won’t be the responsibility of the homeowner. Instead, the members of the consortium who fall under the fixed-price contract will pay for it, as per the agreement.
Penalties are usually built into the contract, with the intention the project will be completed on time and on budget.
Romoff said companies will want to make sure construction is done correctly the first time around, because if it’s not, the work will have to be redone at the same company’s expense.
He said many P3 accomplishments are better known outside of Canada than they are in the country. Canada is looked at as a ‘best in class’ on these kinds of partnerships. It is now the council’s mission to drive that message home to towns and cities.
“That is part of the education; understanding when to do it, how to do it and then provide any support we can as a council to enable them to do it.”