Saturday, September 13, 2008

According to public opinion poles only about 1/3rd of the Canadian population is of the opinion that "it won't make much difference" who wins in the forthcoming federal election. Given sneaky Stevie's previous track record it is most likely that he will continue to keep the "mad dogs" in his party under tight control, even after winning a majority. Perhaps he will toss them a bone or two. The federal gun registry is an obvious target. Fine tuning the conflict between religious rights and human rights ala something like gay marriage is another obvious bone for the social conservatives in his party to gnaw on as more important matters are dealt with. If you ask Molly people opposed to Harper consistently underestimate his cunning. He is gunning for a much more long term realignment of the Canadian electoral results than simply a one term majority government. Keeping the social conservatives tightly under thumb is a necessary part of such a vision. Don't look for anything spectacular such as reopening the abortion debate. Do, however, looking to something like a gradual erosion of medicare by the increasing privatization of medical services- not in one fell swoop but by increments.
All politicians, of course, lie. Stevie has aptly demonstrated this with his disavowal of his own "fixed election time" legislation by calling this election. The Liberals demonstrated it massively in the past by pretending to campaign on abolishing the GST while the fine print of their program said harmonizing it. This actually meant adding it to provincial PSTs, actually doubling it in most cases, and giving it a new name. The experiment was tried in the maritime provinces and produced the expected outrage. The scheme didn't advance to the national level. Dion's present "green shift" would be even more ephemeral in the face of expected recessionary conditions. The NDP ? Well, they can promise anything they like, and even if they survive being overwhelmed by the Greens and go on in some decade to come to actually become a government how long would a Layton promise to forbid further development of the Alberta tar sands last ? The answer is obvious to anyone who knows the NDP in power. There would be a moratorium on tar sands development at exactly the same instant that an NDP government in Saskatchewan closed down their uranium mining industry. The second coming of Christ will occur much earlier.
All political parties, of whatever stripe, are also inevitably caught up in graft and the awarding of favours to their friends. What makes the Conservatives unique in this regard is the high ideological priority that they have placed on what are called Private Public Partnerships (p3s). What this is is a formalization of graft and corruption, perhaps even close to legalizing it. There is no doubt that the infrastructure of Canada, and the USA as well, is sorely in need of rebuilding, and there are many business opportunities there for the well connected. The concerns of the Jumping Jesus brigade hardly matter when placed beside this serious money, and the attempt to legitimize the theft that results from an ideological commitment to such give-aways.
Perhaps here it is time to take a page from conservative ideology and reapply it. Conservatives would say that taking drugs is disgusting and immoral. Intelligent conservatives will admit that no amount of laws will ever stop the drug trade, but they say it should remain illegal in order to express society's disapproval of such a disgusting practice. Stealing public money is also immoral and disgusting. Perhaps it should also not be legitimized and promoted by making it a regular practice, as P3s do, even if such graft will continue whether it is legalized and ideologically promoted or not. A Conservative government is unlikely to ever legalize marijuana, but it seems they are soundly committed to legalize theft.
Here is an item from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) on P3s, the infrastructure deficit and the elections.

“Building Canada” or tearing it down? :
September 12, 2008 10:55 AM
Across Canada, our cities and towns are in an impossible position. Local infrastructure is falling apart, and our schools, hospitals, bridges, roads and water systems are in desperate need of an upgrade.

With cuts to federal and provincial infrastructure funding, Canadian municipalities are left with few options. But instead of increasing federal funding, the Harper government has seized the opportunity to push its privatization agenda.

This fall, Canadians can vote to stop the Harper agenda.

In the 2007 federal budget, the Conservatives took major steps to advance public private partnerships (P3s). A P3 is when a public institution (like a hospital or a school) agrees to pay a private company to fund, operate and deliver services that would normally be provided by the public sector.

In the budget, the government placed most of its infrastructure funding into a $8.8 billion “Building Canada Fund”. Now, municipalities can apply for infrastructure funding, but with clear strings attached: local governments embarking on large projects are forced to “fully consider” P3s.

As further incentive, the Harper government earmarked a $1.25 billion fund to provide subsidies to “innovative P3 projects”.

But the Building Canada Fund was never created to serve the public. Rather, it is a direct response to business lobby groups and large banks who want a piece of the lucrative public sector economy.

CUPE and its allies have conducted extensive research on P3s over the last decade and the conclusions, illustrated by scores of dramatic failures, are clear:
P3s are inefficient
Alberta’s plan to build P3 schools in Calgary and Edmonton comes with a hefty price tag: for every two schools financed as P3s, three could be built as public projects.
They don’t transfer risk
P3 proponents will tell you that P3s transfer risk away from the public sector and over to private companies. But if the private partner enters financial problems, they can declare bankruptcy, leaving the bill to taxpayers.

In 2007, the British firm Metronet entered a $33 billion (CAD) P3 contract to modernize the London Underground. It ran out of money after overspending by $4 billion, much of which taxpayers are now on the hook for. Metronet had only completed 40% of the project.
They’re unaccountable and undemocratic
“I had to fight tooth and nail for even basic information,” said Carl Dubé, former CUPE representative on the board of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec (CHUQ). “The contracts hadn’t been signed and already the workers’ representative was being cut out of the loop, even though I was a board member.”
They’re expensive
Construction costs for the new P3 hospital in Brampton almost doubled from $350 to $650 million, and the hospital has just three-quarters of the promised beds.

Also, police are probing a public-private real estate development that has driven the Université du Québec à Montréal to the brink of bankruptcy. Three years into the contract, costs have risen from $333 million to $529 million.

Privatization can be like dominos. Knock over one public service and they all start to fall. A vote for Stephen Harper is a vote for P3s. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This fall, vote to keep public infrastructure in public hands.

1 comment:

Beijing York said...

Thank you. If there was ever a reason to use the term lipstick on a pig it's P3s. The public really has no idea what public private partnerships are really about. It's spun as if it's a benefit when in fact it's public financing of private profits.