"The death knell of Regional Contractors." That's how John Knappett, one of BC Hydro Corp.'s newest board members, described public-private partnerships just six months ago. As we earlier reported, Mr. Knappett aired his concerns about those partnerships - which have been promoted by the Campbell administration - during a 2008 interview with The Business Examiner's Steve Weatherbe. But he elaborated on them in February while speaking to a local government committee about how the capital region district's new sewage treatment plant should be built.
In a document prepared for that presentation, Mr. Knappett stated public-private partnerships have meant "multinational construction companies that never really could compete against the highly competitive and efficient regional firms are now getting a huge slice of provincial spending and local firms that have contributed for years to local economies are being deal out."
He also questioned the "business models presented to bolster the case for P3's."
The government has said those partnerships result in projects that are a better deal for taxpayers, as well as being delivered on time and on budget.
Unfortunately, according to Mr. Knappett, most of the "evidence of P3 success is provided by the very entities that benefit most from the system including Partnerships BC."
That's the Crown-owned company chaired by Larry Blain, who is also now serving on BC Hydro's board of directors.
"I have been involved in hundreds of Public Infrastructure Projects over the years that were on time and on budget and I really have a hard time accepting that there is a problem in conventional delivery methods with Construction Risk," Mr. Knappett wrote.
However, in a recent interview with Public Eye, he clarified, "In the delivery of some very large projects, I think (a public-private partnership) probably makes sense for the owner and some of the ones we have done in British Columbia I don't think make sense."
The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned document, which was posted on the Canadian Union of Public Employees British Columbia Website. His presentation was recorded by Victoria Independent Television.