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Wednesday, 25 June 2014 15:53

New lessons learned

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Privatization isn’t always the easiest route. That may be a lesson the Alberta government has had to learn the hard way as it attempts to catch up on an infrastructure deficit.

During the 2012 election campaign, then-premier Alison Redford announced her government would build 50 new schools and complete 70 school modernizations across Alberta by 2016.
Since taking power, the Progressive Conservatives have been announcing these projects here and there, but nowhere near the numbers promised. Completion dates are also being moved as the ability to find private partners to build these schools has diminished.
In the latest round of announcements made in June, government officials said rather than build 19 schools using a P3 partnership, the Province will work with the school divisions involved to build them the old way — using their own administration, contracts with individual construction companies and thus retaining the ownership/maintenance of these buildings.
It will be a slower process than farming the schools out to one company, but ultimately a cheaper one. There is a pitfall when it comes to working with the private sector. Jobs are only cheaper when there is a lot of companies bidding on them because there is healthy competition. Only so many companies are in the business of building and maintaining schools. When the government went looking to build these 19 latest ones, only one company bid on the deal and that total price came in about $14 million more than estimated. That’s a lot of taxpayers’ dollars that would have been left on the table.
This is a good lesson to learn moving forward for the Alberta government. Let’s hope in the future ruling parties aren’t as quick to look to the private sector for easy or cheap answers because they won’t always find them.
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact her at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor