FIQ (Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec)

PPP mode: the fox in the henhouse

While Influenza A (H1N1) has been making daily headlines for months, another severe pandemic has been growing, without the government proposing a mass vaccination campaign. The past year has featured many ethical and financial scandals, spattering mud on all levels of government, whether federal, provincial or municipal.

For years, the advocates of neoliberalism have persistently argued on every podium that the private sector is more efficient and would be a better manager of public funds. Based on this myth, the political class has endeavoured to eliminate the obstacles to close collaboration between the State and private enterprise, one by one.  Yet the establishment of a strong, competent and independent public service in the 60s was specifically intended to avoid arbitrariness, favouritism and cronyism in public decisions. At that time, it was already obvious that stripping the public service and relaxing the regulatory framework governing relations between politicians and private companies would lead to the current situation.

The facts revealed in the latest report of the Quebec Auditor General regarding the analyses of the Agence des PPP are consistent with this logic. Thus, it is shown that the Agence oriented studies and manipulated figures to depict the PPP formula as a must for construction of the CHUM and the MUHC. In the same report, Renaud Lachance points out by adding a touch of transparency and rigour, the traditional public formula appears to be far more favourable, adapted and economical to carry out these major projects.

Yet the mandate of the Agence des PPP carried the germ of conflict of interest, because it consisted of evaluating and promoting the relevance of PPP. It is true that this exercise was entrusted to expert firms, but we must remember that most of the Agence’s personnel came from these same firms. In short, the fox was simply invited into the henhouse. Why should we be surprised that some of the chickens are missing?

Although the Agence des PPP is rightly being criticized for its approach, the Government must bear the responsibility. It cannot claim ignorance, because it set up the structure of this deception. It endorsed the Agence’s work and, now that this waste of public funds has been unmasked, it intends to keep going down this path.

Everyone agrees that the Government must back down, including the representatives of the private sector, such as engineers, architects and contractors. The Government can no longer ignore these calls. The PPP mode must be abandoned and the CHUM and MUHC projects must be carried out in traditional mode.

In addition to its inadequate position on PPP, the Government is refusing to set up a commission of inquiry on highway construction contracting. It therefore is giving its blessing to suspicious operations. In this context, I invite you to take advantage of the holidays to talk with your family and friends about the Quebec Government’s unacceptable attitude – that it seems more interested in letting the friends of the regime get rich than watching out for the public’s interests.

Happy holidays!