News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Friday, June 15, 2007

Alberta debt free?

The government of Alberta has announced that it intends to build 18 new schools in the expanding cities of Edmonton and Calgary. There's no surprise that growing communities need more facilities. However, I'm concerned about the method chosen to finance the school building programme - the dreaded Puplic-Private Partnership (P3).

P3s in the UK have brought the NHS to the brink of bankruptcy, failed to provide Folkestone & Hythe with the modern sports facilities that we need and were scrapped for funding Nova Scotia's schools in 2000, due to "financial failure". The details of the Alberta scheme are different, however, as they do not include leasing the premises back to the government. I'll need to take a look at the fine print before I decide whether I'm in favour or not.

Ideologically, I have no problem with P3s. Why shouldn't the private sector be allowed to make a profit from providing public services if they can provide better value to the taxpayer than the state can itself? However, the accounting loophole needs closing. If I buy a house with someone else's money and pay it back over 50 years, it's called a mortgage. Why should it not be the same for government? To keep the debt secured against schools etc off the state's balance sheet is misleading, at best. In the UK, it has been used to such proportions that it now represents dishonesty on an Enron scale. The British government has mortgaged this countries future to the extent that I don't think that there's a future for young people here. I hope that Alberta isn't planning to go down the same route.

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