Sunday, November 13, 2011

To P3 or not to P3? Abbotsford's Stave Lake Water Project Woes

I'm finding this Stave Lake Water Project and the decision about whether or not to enter into a P3 agreement very interesting. Check out this presentation I found on the official SLWP website if you haven't seen it already. Also, here's an interesting blog on this project (again, note the City-owned twist)

Source: City of Abbotsford SLWP Presentation

Note that this presentation and blog are created by the City of Abbotsford, who, it seems very clear, WANT the P3 desperately (my guess is so that the incumbent can run on a platform about "saving you money"). But there's more to this.

I'm not convinced this particular P3 is a good idea. Makes me think of SNC Lavalin and the Canada Line being at full capacity on opening day because they wanted to drive the profit margin up by making the platforms smaller. Now, we're left with a poorly planned billion dollar capital investment project that we can't expand. duh. If it had been municipally planned and executed, they would have planned giant platforms like the Millenium Line that would last 100 years because they don't want to go back in again - and for them, there's no profit in it. Because it was a P3, going back in is big money. So I'm not convinced that P3's are the way to go with municipal responsibilities such as water - especially over 25 years! It's incredible how many responsibilities municipal governments are shirking.

What's even more interesting is that the annual cost difference between P3 and non-P3 water - although it will be much higher than it is now  - seems to be pretty minimal ($610/year vs. $550/year). I wonder how they account for such a small difference in annual costs when the P3 has almost $140 million more in savings to the City. Where is all that money going? Never mind how crazy it seems that the only way a municipality can get money from the Fed's for capital infrastructure investments is through P3's? That seems a bit wacky, to say the least.

If there's one thing that the banking crash taught us, it's that lax government regulations and P3's are putting government responsibilities in the hands of businessmen who are as wealthy as they are because they drive down the bottom line and plan poorly for long term sustainable development.

... and all anyone is seeing is "vote yes" signs. I wonder where the "vote no" signs are?

Am I way off base here? Wadda y'all think about this bizness?

To get way more information than what I'm supplying here, just google "Abbotsford Stave Lake Water Project". The Tyee has a great story on incumbent Patricia Ross.