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Final P3 forum tries to put politics aside

The polls are open for the Regina Referendum on how to fund the waste water treatment plant. Raul Viceral/Global News

By 10p.m. tonight we should know the results of Regina’s Waste Water Treatment Plant Referendum.

But even as late as last night, many Regina residents still had questions about what a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ meant on their ballot.

A pair of experts on public-private partnerships presented their arguments during the Royal Saskatchewan Museum’s final forum Tuesday night.

The event was put on by the Saskatchewan Construction Association. Organizers say after weeks of political arguments on how to fund and operate the new waste water treatment plant, they wanted to put politics aside and focus on the facts.

One of the persistent questions throughout this waste water treatment plant debate has been, ‘what’s the incentive for a private company to do a good job?’

P3 opponents suggest there’s a lack of accountability, but Vijay Gill, the Director of Policy Research for the Conference Board of Canada, says if the partner doesn’t perform the penalty will hit them where it hurts.

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“With a P3, the public sector says, I’m not paying you anything,” he explained. “I’m taking that 30 percent you built and I’m just going to finish it. There may be litigation, but it’s a lot easier as a default option. I’m simply not going to pay you. You put that in the contract up front.”

Another issue surrounding a potential P3 agreement is public sector’s lack of experience in negotiating such a complex deal.

Simon Enoch, the Saskatchewan Director for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, is skeptical any contract would favour public interests.

“We’re talking about corporations with a lot of experience,” said Enoch. “They know what costs can be cut. They’ve done these contracts before. Whereas, a government or municipality may have never done this before in their lives.”

Another topic of night considered speed. Enoch says a P3 is faster once a shovel is in the ground, but contract negotiations could take much longer than a traditional design-bid-build agreement.

Be sure to tune in to News Hour Final at 10 p.m. for the referendum results, reaction interviews, and full analysis of the decision with Municipal Policy Expert, Tina Beadry-Mellor.

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