Saturday, March 24, 2007

P3 Failure In Alberta

What raving leftist said this?

"Although it appears that ideology has ruled over common sense. Monopolies have to be rigorously regulated. When they aren’t – the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority and CLS being two obvious examples – they get out of hand. Having the private sector market alcohol has led to competitive pricing, extended business hours and a huge ramp up in selection. It hasn’t been all bad. Even though the trend recently has seen the mom-and-pops being squeezed out by the big chains."

Neil Waugh in the Edmonton Sun on the failure of the current privatization monopoly in liquor distribution in Alberta.

You see when the government privatized its liquor business it sold off its buildings at fire sale prices, and sold the rights to its lucrative government run distribution business, warehousing and trucks included, to a private company. But that company also maintained the State's monopoly. And as a P3 it is not subject to the usual checks and balances that even the promoters of P3's say need to be in place.

The Alberta Liquor Association called it the “disastrous warehouse mess.” The Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association said it’s had a “serious and negative impact” on its members.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association notes that the outfit running the province’s liquor distribution monopoly “enjoys” a deal where there is “no risk of losing market share due to poor service.”

But more to the point, the new Alberta Tories’ first dive into the P3 shark tank appears to have popped its top.

All this and a whole lot more was revealed in a damning report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers into what’s wrong with the province’s liquor distribution system released by the government yesterday. The very first line of the report warned that “a simple, expedient solution to Alberta’s current liquor supply chain challenges does not exist.”

But at least we may now get a liquor warehouse and distribution operator, that has a contract with Alberta taxpayers with performance measures and penalties. Because right now Connect Logistics Services has a sweet deal where “no incentives or disincentives exist for good/poor performance,” the report determined.

But the Pricewaterhouse report is a clear warning that public/private partnerships aren’t the dream team that the PCs would have us believe. Especially if no one is willing to keep a firm hand on the private partner.

But now the Stelmach government is determined to charge ahead. Ring roads are going to be run as P3s under long-term contracts. There’s talk of “bundles” of schools turned over to the private sector. The new Calgary hospital was originally shopped around as a P3. There were no takers. The liquor warehouse report may have just told us why.


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