Convention Bulletin – Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Breakfast with the national officers

CUPE’s national leaders treated delegates to a hot buffet breakfast on Tuesday morning and provided some good speeches for dessert.

While delegates tucked into their eggs and such, National President Mark Hancock and National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury spoke about crucial issues facing workers – and the support that CUPE offers to help them rise to the challenge.

Hancock encouraged them to resist the pernicious trend of two-tier contracts. To fight this false division of contracts, Hancock said that member engagement was key.

“We don’t want our members getting information from the bosses – it’s way better if they hear it from us,” Hancock said.

Hancock underlined the importance of two key issues for CUPE – stopping precarious work and stopping violence in the workplace. Bargaining improvements – around working conditions, scheduling, wages, benefits and pensions – don’t have to be huge to make a real difference in peoples’ lives, Hancock said.

Hancock describe a recent Ontario conference he had attended where member after member described the kind of injuries they had suffered during their work as health care workers.

“Let’s get one thing clear: violence is not part of the job – any job,” Hancock said. He described the efforts also of education sector workers, who had document their own injuries they had suffered on the job. Employers continue to expect workers to just accept it, but they won’t.

“It’s time to turn the tide,” Hancock said. “If not CUPE then who will? I say we can take it on and improve the lives of our members.”

“Under the National Defence Fund, every local can apply for ‘cost shared’ campaigns that are split 50-50 with the national office,” Fleury explained.

“Locals running these kinds of campaigns must mobilize their members and work closely with their staff and communications representatives.”

If a strike is on the horizon, the national office will cover 100 percent of expenses to help prevent a work stoppage under the National Strike Fund,” Fleury said.

“If bargaining breaks down, or a strike or lock-out happens, the National Strike Fund is there to help you,” Fleury said.

Support includes strike pay, benefit contributions if the employer stops paying them, legal costs and more.

Fleury described recent changes to the National Strike Fund including shorter waiting periods for members to receive strike pay, better coverage for illness and improved accommodations for picket duty or other strike related activities.

Performance for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

In October 2016, Canada’s unions staged a unique and powerful performance with music by A Tribe Called Red, video, holograms and dance to honour Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women.

CUPE delegates watched the CLC video today, presented by Gloria Lepine, CUPE national diversity vice-president.

“That video really affects me. I have a daughter. It’s time for justice. It’s time for justice,” said Nan McFadgen, CUPE Nova Scotia president.

Watch the video

Committee election results

Human Rights Committee

Dwayne Tattrie
Donna McCarthy
Anthony Riley
Steve Stewart

Political Action Committee

Russell Ganaway
Mark Cunningham
Jacqui Giffen
Carmie Erickson

Women’s Committee

Michelle Banfield
Kelsie Croft
Nicole Barkhouse
KC MacPherson
Sharon Hubley


Power in a Union
Billy Bragg

Union Song
Tom Morello

What’s Up
4 Non Blondes

Stand by Me

Redemption Song
Bob Marley

Have You Been to Jail for Justice
Anne Feeney

Jully Black

Credentials Report

8 – CUPE NS Executive Board members
2 – CUPE National officers and staff
3 – CUPE National Executive Board members
3 – CUPE National staff
14 – CUPE staff
9 – Guest
0 – Observers
8 -Exhibitors
223 – Voting delegates
3 – Alternate delegates

Convention Bulletin – Monday, May 29, 2017

Fighting back against precarious work

CUPE National President Mark Hancock gave his opening remarks today. He focused on the need to oppose austerity, two-tier contracts and the growing concern of precarious work – work that is temporary, short term, part-time, casual and contract.

“We hear a lot about precarious work these days,” Hancock said. “It’s more than a buzz word. Everywhere I go I hear about the spread of precarious work and its impact on workers. It’s becoming the norm.”

“Across the country, governments have misplaced priorities. At the ground level, you know what that looks like – attacks on wages, benefits, pensions. Making full-time jobs into part time, short term, precarious.”

Hancock warned that the McNeil government’s privatization rampant agenda would only create more precarious work.

“The McNeil government is just not listening anymore,” Hancock said. “They are out of step with the needs of Nova Scotia families. We can do so much better than Stephen McNeil and the Liberals.”

He urged CUPE members to take action – at the bargaining table and at the polls. “Let’s organize better. Let’s get smarter and tougher at the bargaining tables. No matter what happens, it’s up to us to keep working.”

“Will you stand with me to fight against hate, division and austerity? Will you stand with me to build a better future for our members and for all Canadians?” Hancock asked. The 280 people in the room stood and cheered their agreement.

Credentials Report

8 – CUPE NS Executive Board members

2 – CUPE National officers and staff

3 – CUPE National Executive Board members

3 – CUPE National staff

14 – CUPE staff representatives

7 – Guest

0 – Observers

8 – Exhibitors

222 – Voting delegates

3 – Alternate delegates

Delegates debate resolutions

Delegated debated a range of issues and passed many resolutions on Monday, including support for public water, support for a higher provincial minimum wage and increased public awareness against domestic violence and intimate partner abuse, among other issues.

CUPE Nova Scotia’s Women’s Committee submitted the resolution on violence. Delegates told stories that underscored the urgency – and life or death nature – of the issue, and the need for our union to keep working to prevent violence and support its victims.

Delegates engaged in many thorough discussions today, including the need to increase the province’s minimum wage to $15/hour, a resolution submitted by CUPE Local 108. Delegates supported the call for the union to continue to participate in the Nova Scotia Needs a Raise Coalition.

Delegates supported resolutions on the merits of public water and water justice. CUPE Nova Scotia Global Justice Committee sponsored a resolution encouraging locals to organize to declare their municipalities “Blue Communities” and to fight the bottled water industry.

CUPE 227, meanwhile, brought forward the call to continue to campaign for water justice for indigenous communities, noting that 73 percent of Indigenous communities are at high or medium risk of waterborne contamination. Both resolutions passed.

Delegates also passed several constitutional amendments. They included a new requirement that Division budget updates take place at all table officer meetings; an expanded role for the VP Equity to support equity- seeking efforts beyond Anti-Racism; and a commitment to provide communications updates electronically.

Not one step back

Charles Fleury, CUPE National Secretary- Treasurer, encouraged members to fight back against the failed policy of using public-private partnerships (P3s) to build much-needed new infrastructure, schools and hospitals.

“That is not what our members and Nova Scotians deserve. Wherever things like these happen in Canada, we have to fight back,” Fleury said.

Fleury thanked the convention delegates for standing up for each other, for public services and for our communities. “When our members stand up in their workplaces and in their communities, nothing can stop them,” Fleury said.

“When CUPE members are fully engaged, when locals are fully prepared, we can fight back at the bargaining table. Because in CUPE, we bargain forward, not backward.”

“Our National Strike Fund is very healthy, with over ninety-five million dollars in the bank,” Fleury said. “This is dedicated money that can only be used for strike- related issues. We also made improvements to our Strike Fund regulations to help our members when they need us.”

In closing, Fleury encouraged locals to submit their Trustees’ Reports and he reminded delegates of the educational and training opportunities available to help union financial officers grow in their roles.

Health and Safety Award

Congratulations to Tracey Sullivan, member of CUPE Local 5047 – this year’s recipient of the CUPE Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Award!

Check out all of the photos on Flickr.

Download a printable copy of the Monday bulletin.

Convention Bulletin – Sunday, May 28, 2017

Opening of the 54th Division Convention

The 54th annual convention of the Nova Scotia Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees opened tonight, Sunday, May 28, 2017.

There were 205 people attending, including 174 voting delegates and three alternates, according to the Credentials Committee.

Mi’kmaq singer and drummer Jared Gloade opened the evening with the Mi’kmaq Honour Song (see call-out below for the translated words) and welcomed CUPE members to unceded Mi’kmaq territory.

No matter who we are, we are always respect each other as human beings. Always respect Mother Earth for what she provides. Always respect why Creator has put us here on earth.––Mi'kmaq honour song

Technical difficulties with the sound system gave delegates the opportunity to sing the national anthem in an impromptu choir; delegates sang it loud and proud.

Once seated, members shared the Equality Statement, Code of Conduct and were introduced to the CUPE Nova Scotia Executive Board, National Officers and members of CUPE’s National Executive Board. The Convention was officially called to order and members of committees gave their reports; all were adopted and official business ended. Members of equity-seeking groups held a caucus upon adjournment.

Credentials Report

8 – CUPE NS Executive Board members

3 – CUPE National officers and staff

3 – CUPE National Executive Board members

10 – CUPE staff

1 – Guest

0 – Observers

3 – Exhibitors

174 – Voting delegates

3 – Alternate delegates

New Delegates Orientation

A lively introduction to the purpose of convention, its procedures, traditions and possibilities.

Specific aspects of parliamentary procedure were explained, including the voting process, tiling the doors, pro and con mics and the act of “calling the question.”

Points of privilege, points of order and other ways to manage the conversation in the room were also discussed. Interpretive dances were mentioned frequently.

Don’t be frightened of the procedure – it’s to keep the conversation moving efficiently and respectfully. Get up and say your piece at the mic. First timers’ mic get a prize – and a round of applause. Be brave – this is all about solidarity and having a voice.

Ombudspersons are on hand to hear from you in case you experience any incident or behaviour that runs contrary to CUPE’s Equality Statement and Code of Conduct. The phone number is on the back of your badges.

Check out the tables set up in the hallway – you’ll find information about health and safety, education, as well as various committees including pensions, women’s and social justice. Find out what else CUPE is about!

Quote of the night

“We still have to keep the torch burning folks, so we can light the way for the youth of today. So, within CUPE I say, united we stand, divided we fall. So, let’s unite!” Liz Paris, VP Equity

Check out all of the photos on Flickr.

Download a printable copy of the Sunday bulletin.

CUPE joins call for comprehensive plan to improve health care services in Digby

Beds sit empty at Digby hospital, while neighbouring hospitals unable to meet needs of all patients

“The Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) is not doing enough to ensure the Digby General Hospital is being used to full capacity,” says Carl Crouse, CUPE national representative. “Right now, there are approximately half of the 33 beds sitting empty, while hospitals nearby are reportedly in need of more beds on a regular basis.”

“Digby has had empty in-patient beds and empty restorative care beds for months now,” adds Crouse. “In a provincial health care system where there is overcrowding and bed shortages, it’s a real failure of the health authority to have any facility operating below capacity.”

“Our members are joining the call by the community, including the Digby Health Coalition, to improve public health care in the area,” says the Nan McFadgen, president of CUPE Nova Scotia.

“We agree with the coalition. The health authority and elected officials are not listening to the workers who provide health care services or the residents who depend on them,” says McFadgen. “We want to see a comprehensive plan that will deliver better quality, full-service health care and allow the Digby community to be a part of the decision-making process.”

CUPE 8920 represents 4,700 members working in acute care facilities across the province, including the Digby General Hospital.

Cape Breton education workers devastated by layoff notices

Twenty-eight education workers received layoff notices this week from their employer, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board (CBVRSB). The workers, who are members of CUPE Local 5050, include 23 teaching assistants, two secretaries, two supervisor cleaners and one cleaner. A bus driver and an inventory clerk position were also lost through attrition.

CUPE and Local 5050 members are devastated by the board’s decision to lay off staff.

“It is poor timing considering that the board members recently voted to increase their own wages. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when our members are losing jobs,” says Mary Jessome, CUPE Local 5050 president.

“The wage increases add up to approximately $40,000. For that amount, they could have kept a number of staff,” says Jessome.

“In February, the McNeil Government imposed a contract on teachers through Bill 75, which includes the creation of a committee to study inclusion in our classrooms. The bill also includes a clause that states no school board can make a change to their inclusion policies until that report from the committee comes back to the parties,” says CUPE school board coordinator Grant Dart.

“A large part of inclusion in the classroom is the work our CUPE teacher assistants do on a daily basis. For CBVRSB, or any school board, to lay off teacher assistants before the committee reports back seems wrong – and contradictory to the committee’s mandate.

“Why did the government set up a committee and spend taxpayers’ money to address inclusion issues, if school boards are cutting and reducing those services prior to hearing the recommendations?” asks Dart.

Cape Breton is already struggling to survive as schools close and job losses continue says Kathy MacLeod, CUPE national representative. “Sadly, more and more people continue to leave the region.”

“It’s not just our members and their families that are affected by these job losses. This will seriously impact the quality of education students receive,” says Jessome. “It will also cause a loss to the community in the rural Cape Breton areas that must be preserved.”

“We encourage parents, students and all concerned members of the community to contact local school board members and their MLA to voice their concerns.”

CUPE Local 5050 represents approximately 1,100 school board workers employed by the Cape Breton- Victoria Regional School Board.

2017 Provincial Election: What’s at stake for CUPE members?

Dear CUPE member,

I believe Stephen McNeil ‘s Liberal government is not listening to Nova Scotians.

Time and again, the choices made by the McNeil government have been out of touch with the needs of workers, their families and our communities.

The McNeil government deserves to be defeated. Just look at their track record.

A public health care system in crisis, budget cuts to nursing homes, threats to privatize home support services, tuition fee hikes, picking fights with unions, failing to create good jobs. . . the list goes on.

On Tuesday, May 30 you have the opportunity to vote for progressive NDP candidates who will stand up for working people and their families. A number of the NDP candidates are CUPE members, prepared to fight for you in our legislature.

Together we can do this.

Every vote counts!

Nan McFadgen
President , CUPE Nova Scotia

Download a printable copy of the election flyer and pass it out to CUPE members in your local!

The McNeil government’s attack on workers

  1. Bill 148, the Public Service Sustainability Act, freezes and limits wage increases, sets the term of collective agreements and puts an end to long service awards.
  2. Bill 37, the Essential Health and Community Services Act, limits job action rights of more than 40,000 workers in acute care, long term care, group homes, home support, child protect ion and other sectors.
  3. Bill 19, Trade Union Act amendments, made it harder for workers to exercise their right to unionize and secure a first collective agreement.
  4. Bill 75, the Teachers’ Professional Agreement and Classroom Improvement Act, imposed a collective agreement on teachers after they rejected the contract terms three times.
  5. Bill 100, the Universities Accountability and Sustainability Act, allows universities to override collective agreements during five-year “revitalization” periods.
  6. Bill 30, the Essential Home Support Services Act, directly interfered in the collective bargaining of home support workers.
  7. Bill 1, the Health Authorities Act, restructured the health care system, unnecessarily reduced the number of bargaining units, and at tempted to assign union representation rights.


Something to vote for

Gary Burrill and the NDP will repeal Bill 148, which forces a two-year wage freeze on public sector workers and ends the long service award, and Bill 100, which limits collective bargaining rights at Nova Scotia universities.

The NDP will reverse the cuts to nursing homes and put $8.3 million back into the province’s long term care facilities. An NDP government will phase in a $15 minimum wage to help lift 130,000 people out of poverty.

The NDP will repeal Bill 75, the legislation that imposed a contract on teachers, and reopen negotiations with their union.

Burrill pledged to continue the work of the previous NDP government and expand dental coverage to include all children under 18.

To make a fairer tax system and fund public services, an NDP government will increase the tax rate for individuals earning more than $250,000 by 3%, adding $82 million over 4 years to government revenues.


May 30 is Election Day!

It’s easy to vote in the Nova Scotia provincial election – on election day or before election day.

For information on how to vote, visit the website at or phone 1-800-565-1504.

Got a couple hours to spare?

Support your local NDP candidate by volunteering. For more information or to make a donation, visit their website at

Follow CUPE Nova Scotia for updates




Let’s elect a government that works for all of us!

Download a printable copy of the election flyer and pass it out to CUPE members in your local!

What provincial auditors have said about P3s – Fact Sheet

Over the years, provincial auditors across the country have questioned the financial rationale for using public-private partnerships (P3s) to build public infrastructure.

Provincial auditors are independent officers of legislative assemblies who review government finances and decision-making to ensure public funds are spent in an efficient and accountable manner.

A number of P3s have now been reviewed by provincial and federal auditors and the verdict is bad.

Auditors have found that P3s cost more than traditional public projects, use questionable methodology, lack accountability and do not transfer risk to the private sector.


In her 2014 Report, Ontario’s Auditor General reviewed 74 P3 projects and concluded that they cost the province $8 billion more than if they had been procured publicly. The majority of this— $6.5 billion—was due to higher private-sector financing costs. She also questioned the main justification for using P3s–the assertion that they transferred risk to the private sector. The P3 projects used unrealistically high risk transfer, averaging about 50% of the capital costs.

The Auditor General concluded that “there is no empirical data supporting the key assumptions used by Infrastructure Ontario to assign costs to specific risks.”

In her follow-up audit of the P3 projects, the Auditor General noted that little to no progress had been made on a number of audit recommendations. Further work was required on:

  • Having adequate data to support the calculations of risk transferred to the private sector, and
  • Ensuring the risks that are supposed to be transferred to the private sector actually are.

The Auditor General also highlighted the $36.6 billion in long-term P3 liabilities and commitments that the present and future governments will face.

In 2008, Ontario’s previous auditor general determined that the William Osler Centre, a P3 hospital in Brampton, could have been built for $200 million less through traditional public financing. He also found that the cost of the public option was overstated by more than $600 million and that there was a high cost for advisors and consultants ($34 million).

British Columbia

In 2014, the Auditor General of British Columbia raised major concerns about the high cost of debt through P3 projects. She examined 16 different P3 projects in the province and found the government was paying nearly twice as much for borrowing through P3s as it would have if it had borrowed the money itself.

An earlier 2011 review of the Vancouver General Hospital Academic Ambulatory Care Centre (AACC), known as the Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Centre, identified the higher cost of private financing, probed the transfer of risk to the private sector and questioned whether P3s were in reality on time and on budget.


In 2010, the provincial auditor of Quebec found that the McGill University Health Care Centre (MUHC) P3 cost more than the public option, and that the analysis used to compare the P3 model to a conventional public model was extremely faulty. Instead of the P3 model saving $33 million, the provincial auditor found that the public model would have saved $10 million. The auditor’s special report to the National Assembly also found that there was a cost overrun of more than $108 million, on top of the original price tag of $5.2 billion.

Not only that, a number of the key people involved in the McGill University hospital P3, such as Arthur Porter and the former CEO of SNC Lavalin, have been charged with corruption associated with this project.

Recently two researchers from Montreal calculated that the government of Quebec would save up to $4 billion if it bought back the two super hospitals from the P3 consortium.

Nova Scotia

In 2010, the Auditor General of Nova Scotia reported on his review of 39 P3 schools in that province. He cited numerous and significant problems with the administration of contracts, notably the absence of a child abuse registry and criminal records checks of sub-contractors. Many of the P3 companies subcontracted work to other companies without ensuring adequate safety checks.

The auditor concluded that “[t]he terms of service contracts are not adequate to ensure public interest is protected…The lack of these significant contract terms impairs the Department’s ability to hold the developers accountable and effectively manage the contracts.”

He also noted that risk was transferred back to government and developers were being paid twice for the service, resulting in a deficit for any local school board.

New Brunswick

In her 2012 report, the New Brunswick Auditor General found significant problems with the decision to build two P3 schools in Moncton and Rexton. She pointed to deficiencies in the value for money analysis used and reported that the decision to use a P3 had been made without any rationale. In fact, she found that the government spent $1.7 million more with a P3 than it would have using public procurement.

Problems were also found through an earlier 1998 audit of Evergreen P3 School and Wackenhut’s Miramichi Youth Facility.

The Department of Finance had claimed that the P3s would provide seven to 15 per cent savings on the design and construction, that capital financing to the private partner was very close to the government’s long term borrowing rate, and that major capital repair and replacement risk would be eliminated. None of these claims proved true.

The Auditor General concluded that the capital cost of the Evergreen School would have been $774,576 less had the province done the work itself and that the Youth Facility cost the Province $700,000 more because of higher financing costs through the private corporation Wackenhut.


In 1995, the Auditor General of Canada reviewed the Confederation Bridge P3 project, which is often listed as a success story by P3 proponents. The Auditor General had major concerns with the “complex financing” of the project and concluded that the bridge cost $45 million more than if the government had directly borrowed the money.


In a 2015 review of SaskBuilds, the provincial Crown corporation responsible for P3s, the Auditor General of Saskatchewan found that the corporation had valued the risk of public procurement to be six times higher than if it had used P3s. The Auditor General noted that benefits attributed to P3s could also occur in public sector procurement and urged the government to gain efficiencies under traditional procurement.

In 2010, the Ministry of Health signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Amicus Health Care Incorporated to build a 100-bed long term care facility in Saskatoon, without prior agreement from the health region. Although neither the government nor the provincial auditor called this arrangement a P3, it was by all definitions a P3: Amicus financed 100% of the capital costs and receives monthly capital and operating lease payments from the province over seven years.

The Provincial Auditor criticized the absence of a cost benefit analysis:

The proposed daily capital rate is higher than other affiliates [nursing homes] because of Amicus borrowing 100% of the capital required for construction. We were unable to obtain the basis for calculating this rate for Amicus. As well, neither the [Ministry of] Health nor Saskatoon [Health Region] could provide us any written analysis to support that funding long-term beds in this new way is cost effective for the Province.

The Auditor also noted that once the construction was completed, the Saskatoon Health Region “assumes the risk over debt repayment and the operation of the new facility.”

Dr. John Loxley also reviewed what little information was disclosed about the Amicus deal and concluded that private financing would cost $11 to $20 million more than if the province had built the facility.

CUPE Research – April 2017

10 problems with P3s

Across Canada, some governments are promoting privatizing public infrastructure and services through public-private partnerships, also known as P3s.

In a P3 deal, private corporations make a profit from financing, operating and/or maintaining public infrastructure projects. Municipal or provincial governments, school boards or health authorities sign contracts with private corporations to design, build, operate and sometimes finance infrastructure and deliver services that were once public. These contracts can last 30 years or longer.

Working with our allies, CUPE has helped keep many vital services public, because we know they keep our province strong.

P3s are privatization, pure and simple. There are many reasons public works best to build and maintain long-term care facilities, hospitals, water and wastewater treatment facilities, schools, transit systems, roads, bridges and other vital assets.

Here are 10: 

  1. P3s cost the public more

Private, for-profit corporations get involved with P3s to make a profit for their shareholders. Those profits are made charging more for the project (including financing costs), and/or from cutting the operating costs. Lawyer and consultant fees add even more to the P3 price tag.

In 2014, Ontario’s auditor general reviewed 74 P3 projects and found they cost $8 billion more than if they had been publicly financed and operated – that’s 30 per cent more than public projects would have cost, or about $1,600 per Ontario household. Fully $6.5 billion was due to higher costs of private borrowing.

Governments and other public sector bodies can borrow money to build infrastructure much more cheaply than the private sector. P3s are like using a credit card instead of a low-cost mortgage to build public facilities.

  1. The public still shoulders the risk

Even advocates of P3s admit they cost more than publicly-delivered projects. To sell the deals, advocates have developed complicated arguments and questionable calculations about risk transfer and efficiency to gloss over the fact their costs are higher.

P3 contracts include hefty additional charges for any risk that is transferred from the public to the private sector. Even then, private corporations can seek bankruptcy protection and walk away from contractual commitments. When this happens, governments must scramble to maintain public services, and taxpayers are stuck with the higher costs of private sector operation.

Provincial auditors general have found that the way government agencies promoting privatization analyze P3 projects is biased, and does not take into account the higher cost of private financing. In Ontario, the auditor found no evidence to back claims P3 projects shifted risk to corporations.

  1. P3s hurt workers

P3 contracts often involve outsourcing good public sector jobs to for-profit operators. This can involve all jobs or some types of jobs such as cleaning, maintenance or food preparation. Ultimately, the for-profit operator seeks to maximize profits by cutting corners and doing more work with fewer staff. Furthermore, the tight budgets that come with higher-cost P3s can also lead to deteriorating wages and working conditions. Finally, there are no guarantees that jobs will be protected over the life of a P3, even if there are initial promises of job security. As one example, nearly 400 jobs have been cut since the North Bay P3 hospital opened in 2011.

  1. P3s operate in secrecy

Privatization means details about financing and operations are hidden from the public. P3 contracts involve lengthy and complex negotiations behind closed doors. Unlike governments, private corporations are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. This means residents don’t have access to information about the environmental and economic actions of companies. Most so-called ‘Value for Money’ reports about P3s edit out important financial information about how that value was calculated. This means we can’t accurately assess the true costs of privatization.

  1. We lose public control and accountability

Private corporations answer to shareholders – not residents and elected officials. The mandate of shareholders is to ensure profitable and growing businesses. Our governments answer to the public. At best, P3s blur the lines of accountability and responsibility. Basic public services like health care, water and wastewater treatment should respond to the priorities of the people that rely on them, not the profit motives of shareholders.

  1. Multi-decade contracts limit flexibility and responsiveness

P3 contracts lock local governments into multi-decade deals with private companies. As technology improves and community needs change, P3 contracts tie the hands of municipalities, provincial governments, or school boards that want to adapt and evolve. Changes can only be made after re-opening contracts, and come at a high price. With trade deals like CETA coming into force, governments will find it difficult or impossible to end a P3 when it goes bad.

  1. Local businesses lose out to large corporations

Governments have always relied on private, home-grown, companies to design and build public infrastructure. P3 contracts price small and medium-sized companies out of the game. Only large corporations can provide the up-front financial backing the deals demand, and engage in complex P3 negotiations. This means local design and construction firms can’t bid on projects. It also means, in the long term, that many decisions about local services are being made in corporate head offices, not in communities.

  1. Money and jobs leave the community

Public services offer local residents good jobs in the community. These jobs provide opportunities to train and enhance the skills and experience of residents, and in turn strengthen the area’s resiliency. This is crucial in tough economic times. And projects in the hands of local governments rely on local private sector firms and expertise to design and build public infrastructure. P3s rely on external investment and expertise and often source materials from outside the community. Money that could be returned to the local economy and tax base goes elsewhere.

The ‘discipline’ of public-private partnerships is an illusion. P3 projects can claim to be “on time and on budget” only because the completion date gets set after the lengthy lead time – usually years – it takes to reach the contract stage for P3s. Budget goalposts shift to meet whatever the contract costs.

  1. P3s download costs to future generations

Governments tout the short-term financial benefits of P3s, but P3s are not a short-term project. We all end up paying for P3s down the road. Future generations that had no say in the decisions end up locked into paying the extra costs decades into the future, leaving less money for public services and other community priorities.

A warning for taxpayers in Nova Scotia

A shorter version of this editorial was published in the Halifax Metro newspaper special edition on unions, published April 24, 2017, along with this ad (see photo below).

Time and time again provincial governments are forced to admit they were wrong to use public private partnerships (P3s) to construct health care facilities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars. Yet here we are as the McNeill Government embarks on another foreseeable failure with the QEII redevelopment project.

Last year, the Liberal government realized their mistake to privately construct and lease 39 schools. They should have owned the schools outright from the start. They recently bought back the leases for 26 of the schools, at an additional cost of approximately $162 million. The alternative was to walk away empty handed, while developers pocket the money spent over the years ($726 million on principal and interest payments) and keep the buildings.

First P3 schools, now P3 hospitals. It was recently reported that the government paid 12 times the assessed value of land purchased for a new outpatient centre.

Similar in scope to the QEII redevelopment, a review in 2014 of the P3 used to finance Montreal’s University Health Centres found that the capital costs were at least $1.8 billion over the original price tag. See more examples at health-care.

Why would the McNeil Government rely on P3s with higher-cost private financing? There’s a desire by many politicians to keep borrowing costs off their books, at least in the short term.

P3s are not in the best interest of workers, our families or our communities.

Nan McFadgen
CUPE Nova Scotia President