A hard look at Partnerships British Columbia

Last week, respected forensic and investigative accountant Ron Parks raised a concern about the government's plan to have Partnership British Columbia review many of the province's new municipal capital projects. That plan would see the government-owned company take a "hard look" at how those projects "might be built as a public-private partnership" - if they cost more than $20 million and receive provincial funding. But Mr. Parks suggested there could a question of bias in those reviews because "the more projects (Partnerships British Columbia) can promote or have their involvement in, the better." So is there another group that could do the same work? Mr. Parks confirmed a major consulting company has the capacity to do such an assessment. But the resort municipality of Whistler came up with a different approach.

In August 2004, Whistler appointed a blue ribbon panel to "provide opinions and recommendations" about what method the municipality should use to upgrade its waste water treatment plant. According to the panel's report, "two procurement options" were under consideration - "the traditional engineering approach proposed by Dayton & Knight;" and the second; and the Design Build Operate ("DBO”) approach proposed by Partnerships BC."

The panel - which included representatives engineering and accounting firms, as well as other local government - recommended the municipality accept Partnerships British Columbia's proposal. Although one dissenting panel member noted that document "did not provide evaluators and potential proponents with a suitable basis upon which to evaluate the merits of proposals Whistler would receive...A substantial examination of the Whistler plant by an independent consultant is required to prepare a suitable Shadow Bid."

But it was all for naught in the end. In June, Whistler councillors voted to cancel plans to upgrade the plant using a public-private partnership.

4 Comments

Whistler has proceeded in a manner that doesn't pass the laugh test. But why would anyone be surprised? This municipality is home to the most aggressively optimistic noveau riche people in BC, the core Liberal constituency. Is it any wonder they would do as the Premier wants, make this a P3 project? It would be truly shocking if they had gone the other direction!

"Mr. Parks suggested there could be a question of bias"

Hardly. Partnerships BC has done great work, look at the $39 million saved at the Abbotsford Hospital.

I do know one person that is biased, however, and that is Sean Holman.

What great work has Partnerships BC done, Ryan? What have they contributed in terms of intellectually sound analysis of various options? Are any of their analyses publicly available? What do they have in the way of an actual research staff?

I doubt Ryan would think of the 39 million dollars as a saving if he had to ever go to the Abbotsford Hospital. That money is going to have to come from somewhere...as in the patients.

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