P3 schools a disaster waiting to happen

Experience elsewhere should scare Calgarians away from ‘‘costly’ idea – CUPE

CALGARY – News that Alberta’s new Education Minister is considering using ‘public private partnerships (P3s) to build new schools for Calgary should have parents, taxpayers, and school trustees very concerned.

That was the message from CUPE Alberta President D’Arcy Lanovaz – who said P3s were such a disaster in Nova Scotia that the Conservative government there abandoned it.

“After looking at the Nova Scotia experience, it is clear that P3s will cost Albertans more.”

In the late 1990s, the Liberal government of Nova Scotia argued that the need for new school construction was so great, they needed to go the P3 route.  The Liberals negotiated a deal to build 55 schools using the private sector.

Lanovaz said the subsequent Conservative government decided to scrap the Liberal P3 plan after costs increased by $32 million – enough to build three schools.

“Not only did Nova Scotians pay more for construction then they would have by conventional financing, but because the deals were so complicated, a number of disputes arose and went to arbitration,” said Lanovaz.  “The arbitration results added more costs and resulted in poorer schools.”

Lanovaz provided several examples of negative arbitration decisions in P3 schools:

  • Schools have lost the right to cafeteria and vending machine profits, and might have to give up a portion of funds raised through school fundraising events.
  • Hourly rates for the rental of school space for sports groups has increased from $7/hour to $57/hour.
  • A leaked report shows that while the government wanted the private partner to carry $50 million in liability insurance, the private companies only have to carry $10 million.

In scrapping P3s, Nova Scotia Conservative Education Minister Jane Purves said “P3 schools grew too elaborate and too costly.”

Neil Leblanc, Conservative Finance Minister of NS said, “”The former government tried to use accounting to push the costs of the new schools off-book, but they didn’t fool our lenders or taxpayers. Debt is debt is debt, and we must account for it.”

“If Alberta doesn’t heed the lessons of Nova Scotia, we will pay more, get less, lose control over our schools, and make them less safe for our children,” said Lanovaz.

“My message to the Alberta government is don’t repeat the mistakes of other governments.  We have the resources to build our schools – without the extra costs of P3s.”

Contact: D’Arcy Lanovaz

President, CUPE Alberta


Lou Arab

Communications Representative


For more information about CUPE Alberta, visit www.alberta.cupe.ca