U of R researchers critical of P3 referendum numbers

U of R researcher Bill Bonner points out a redacted value-for-money audit provided by the City of Regina under a freedom-of-information request. Mike McKinnon / Global News

REGINA – More than a year after Regina’s waste water treatment plant referendum, a pair of University of Regina accountants aren’t buying the math.

“Our fears were confirmed. The numbers had no foundation.”

In their research, titled ‘Regina’s P3 referendum: A vote hijacked by a war of numbers from nowhere,’ Bill Bonner and Morina Rennie suggest there wasn’t enough verification of data the City of Regina used to decide a public-private partnership (P3) was the best deal for building the facility.

Reginans ultimately voted to support a P3 funding model, but it was a fierce campaign that pitted the city against Regina Water Watch, a group that formed to fight privatization of the facility.

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The research argued that pro-P3 data promoted by the City, such as a $276 average savings on annual utility bills with a P3 or a $1,000 increase on new home builds under a traditional design-bid-build (DBB), were arrived at ‘arbitrarily.’

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Bonner and Rennie said the city is still being secretive and won’t release all the numbers, including an original ‘value-for-money audit’. A freedom-of-information (FOI) request only returned a heavily-redacted page with no dollar values.

READ MORE: Could referendum be fight between left vs. right?

“Our duty is to point that out repeatedly and actually ask for the evidence, otherwise it becomes ideological,” Bonner said. “Which group produced the numbers? Which group do I trust? That just seems to be the wrong basis for voting.”

Bonner said voters couldn’t properly inform themselves on the referendum based on the numbers that were provided.

More detailed research on the referendum will be presented to an accounting conference in Ottawa next month.

The city did not respond Friday to questions about the research and would only release a statement saying it’s happy with the $181-million project.


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