New models in public private partnerships
TORONTO - The 2008 East Coast Connected Atlantic Business Summit's panel discussion offered a fascinating glimpse into the emerging field of public-private partnerships (P3's). This discussion, moderated by Gordon Pitts, examined how a renewed focus on P3's could benefit the development of Atlantic infrastructure.
Introductory remarks by New Brunswick Minister of Business Greg Byrne called for Atlantic Canadian cooperation in both political and economic sectors and the need to strike a balance between maintaining and upgrading infrastructure.
According to panellist Doug Turnbull, Canada has used up 79 per cent of the total service life of its infrastructure and the need is pressing for P3's to aid in renewal. Using the Confederation Bridge as an example of early P3 development success, Turnbull outlined the expansion of P3 project possibilities in Atlantic Canada, including water management and hospitals.
Dale Richmond's experience with community organizations in both private and public capacities across the country has led him to conclude that P3's contribute significant value to the provision of infrastructure.
Ashley Cummings, a self-described "traditionalist," reflected on his involvement in New Brunswick infrastructure development and concluded that P3 projects have had "some very successful outcomes." He described several new P3 infrastructure developments in New Brunswick including schools, mental health facilities and courthouses.
Moving from public to private institutions through New Brunswick's entrepreneurial sectors, Gary Stairs knows the value P3's can bring to public safety and education. Projects such as New Brunswick 911, NB Alert, and Teleducation New Brunswick illustrate the diversity of P3 infrastructure in Atlantic Canada.
Offering a lender's perspective, Stephen Hart emphasized concerns in aligning stakeholder interests and risk assessment. Transparency in public and private sectors was a key issue for Hart. In his view, value for money is determined by the transfer of risk and assessing whether the private sector can do it cheaper, quicker, better?
Richmond suggested that an all-provinces agency dedicated to excellence in P3 provision is vital to the Atlantic region, where it lags behind other areas of the country.
The wide-ranging discussion reflected the excitement around P3 possibilities. While the tone was optimistic, there was a note of urgency, related to infrastructure needs but also taxpayer accountability, value for money, and global competition for projects. All the panellists agreed that government needs to do a better job of selling the value of P3's to the public.
Speaking on this panel were: Doug Turnbull, Deputy Chairman with TD Securities; Dale Richmond, President of the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships; Ashley Cummings, Assistant Deputy Minister, Government of New Brunswick; Gary Stairs, Chairman and CEO of Red Hot Learning; and Stephen Hart, SVP and Head of Credit Risk at Scotiabank. The moderator was Gordon Pitts, Author and Columnist at the Globe and Mail, and the panel was introduced by the Hon. Greg Byrne, Minister of Business, New Brunswick.
- Alexander J. Willis