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Local MLAs speaks out against P3 model for building schools

By: Sara Wilson

  |  Posted: Thursday, Nov 28, 2013 11:08 am

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A local MLA disagrees with the Alberta Government’s decision to use a public-private partnership to build 19 new schools in Alberta – including two in Airdrie.

On Nov. 20, the Province entered the Request for Proposal stage to secure a developer.

Build to Learn, in conjunction with Gracorp Capital Advisors Ltd. and Bird Capital Limited Partnership, was the only company to respond to the government’s call for a Request for Qualification – a process that sees Build to Learn submit a detailed plan and financial bid for designing, financing and maintaining the 19 schools.

The schools will be built through a combination of public-private partnerships and traditional methods, commonly referred to as P3 system.

“We are continuing with the P3 system,” Wayne Drysdale, minister of infrastructure explained. “After looking at our delivery options, we found this is still the best way to provide value for Alberta taxpayers and ensure the 19 new schools are completed on time.”

This system aims to share the infrastructure costs with the private sector to secure a lower interest loan than the Province could.

Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson says debt sharing is not an effective way to finance infrastructure projects.

“I’m glad they are moving forward with the new schools, however, the P3 system is the wrong system to do it with,” Anderson said. “Only one company was able to bid, because the project was so large. It limits the number of companies that can bid and limits the price. If you open it up to multiple companies … you going to get better prices and better bang for the buck.”

The $1.4-billion investment into 19 schools was announced as part of Premier Alison Redford’s platform to invest in education infrastructure.

According to the government, a public-private partnership contract will only be secured if value for money is shown. The private contractor’s bid must be less than the government’s cost to deliver the 19 schools through traditional methods.

However, the process isn’t moving fast enough and the schools may not be completed in the promised three-year timeframe, according to Chestermere-Rocky View MLA Bruce McAllister.

“After all the fanfare for building Alberta, after all the cheerleading for debt financing of infrastructure through P3s, this government can’t get the job done when it matters,” he said. “The PC government has been schooled by the facts of life and hopefully has learned that P3s aren’t the magical solution to building infrastructure.”

McAllister explained that Alberta Infrastructure informed school boards at the beginning of October that it would be unlikely the 19 schools will be completed on time as promised.


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