Liberals considering P3s for all programs and services

James McLeod
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Finance minister says directives meant to provoke ‘bold’ thinking

The Liberal government is asking bureaucrats to look at every program and service with an eye to potentially cutting or converting public services into public-private partnerships (P3s), according to documents obtained by The Telegram through access to information legislation.

Telegram file
Liberal government cost-cutting measures will be considering P3s for all provincial programs and services.

Guidelines sent to all departments, agencies, boards and commissions (ABCs) in government in January give a sense of what kind of proposals Premier Dwight Ball’s new government is looking for to deal with the $2-billion deficit facing the province.

The guidelines from the Government Renewal Initiative offer a series of “tests” that various arms of government are directed to apply to all government operations, including a “partnership test.”

“This test will address whether the program or service is a candidate for delivery by the federal government, municipalities, the community sector or the private sector or a combination thereof,” the guidelines say.

“Departments and ABCs must explore whether other jurisdictions have had success with alternative partnering models.”

The next test — an “efficiency test” — also suggests departments look at privatization options.

“As part of this test, departments and ABCs must consider whether the level of resources currently allocated to the delivery of the program is greater than required to achieve the desired outcome and whether innovative delivery mechanisms could be employed (e.g. technology, third-party delivery, public-private partnerships etc.)” the document says.

The guidelines also specifically ask for options regarding cutting civil servants.

For each potential cut or change to a program, bureaucrats are asked to identify how it will affect government workers.

“This assessment should include impact as a result of attrition and how impacts would change if a method other than attrition were chosen to effect change,” the document says. “Attrition must be the preferred and primary human resource method used to implement Governmen Renewal proposals; however, proposals must include other options that could be utilized to effect change more quickly.”

During the November general election, the incumbent Progressive Conservative party defended a plan for public-private partnerships in long-term care, and the Liberals heavily criticized the PCs.

Ball also catagorically promised during the campaign that there would be no civil service layoffs.

“I do have concerns that they’re stepping back from what they said — and a very short time ago,” said Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), the province’s largest public-sector union.

Departments and ABCs must explore whether other jurisdictions have had success with alternative partnering models. Excerpt from government documents

“We’re not talking a year ago, we’re talking literally two months ago.”

Earle said that on a variety of election promises — notably a promise not to lay off workers — the Liberals are now backing down.

When it comes to P3s, Earle said NAPE is already planning a public-awareness campaign to make it clear to people that the union believes privatization of services won’t save money for the government.

Tory MHA Keith Hutchings said it all looks like the Liberals really have no plan.

“Whether it’s taxation policy, whether it’s reduction in the public service and how you do it, the reference that everything is on the table, it’s just always been a moving target for the past couple of months in terms of what their intent is,” Hutchings said.

“It just clearly indicates to me, and I think to the general public more and more, that there’s a lack of plan and a lack of clear direction on where they want to take the province and how they’re going to do it.”

NDP Leader Earle McCurdy had concerns, too. On top of the P3s, which his party has long opposed, he said some of the other language buried in the government’s guidelines gave him pause.

“Looking at increasing co-pays, changing entitlement ceilings, establishing eligibility criteria for universal programs and so on, there’s a real risk that the most vulnerable people are the ones that get nailed there,” McCurdy said.

“Are they talking about child dental services? Are they talking about home services for seniors, or seniors’ dental?”

In an emailed statement sent on behalf of Finance Minister Cathy Bennett, the government said the guidelines are meant to provoke “bold” thinking from within government.

“The provincial government has not yet established specific budget targets for this year or any future years,” Bennett’s statement said.  

“As the Government Renewal Initiative Guidelines explain, departments and agencies, boards and commissions, are being tasked, as are all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, to be innovative and drive the change that is required.”

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees

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Recent comments

  • Is there any truth to the rumour that Newfoundland and Labrador cannot borrow money long term or Are those with big money, the one-per enters, knocking on Government doors to be the lenders?
    February 20, 2016 - 18:00

    Is there any truth to the rumour that the province of Newfoundland and Labrador cannot borrow long term money? Also would this article, to which I am commenting here, that states the Liberals are considering P3s for all programs and services, have anything to do with the one per centers who have lots of money to invest and nowhere to invest their money to get a decent Interest rate return and besides to keep it safe might be courting the governments to allow them to be their lenders through P3s? If interest rates turn negative they might have to pay money interest to the financial institutions to keep their money safe. We can only imagine that some of the top politicians in Canada over the decades made themselves very rich during their time of practising politics, not only in the rest of Canada but right here in Newfoundland and Labrador from the avails of our natural resources. I know our province Newfoundland and Labrador got very little out of the great natural resource base it brought into Canada, resources that are being utilized elesewhere in Canada and the World to create vibrant economies while our province languishes. I even heard one politician say a few years back that he was resigning from the political realm because he was itching to start investing his fortune into projects. Just Wondering!

  • Very disturbing governance!!
    February 18, 2016 - 12:17

    Unless we stand up and tell Ottawa we want the same type of economy that exists in the rest of Canada created here, we will never be any different economically. We have just 7 Federal MPs out of 338 MPs. Very Unfai! Given our well endowed natural resource base that included Fish, Oil, Minerals of all types, Great Hydroelectricity supply etc., and a wonderful location that expanded Canada into a Nation that included the complete top half of North America from the Eastern periphery to the Western periphery of North America. Given everything we possessed of Gret value and gave to Canada it should have been seen to by Ottawa that our province should have had the best economy in the whole of Canada. Our province held a landmass three times the size of the Maritime Provinces, it held jurisdiction over hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of the Atlantic Ocean waters and the Air Space above that also came into Canada's possession that added greatly to Canada's overall economy and its greatness, so then given all the attributes I fail to understand how we haven't led the provincial economies in the whole of Canada? As a professor at Memorial University said during a session on the new upcoming world economy that I attended at the Bruneau Centre at MUN a few months ago, he said the province of Newfoundland and Labrador was on the right side of the Continent during the last 68 Years of Canadian growth of being aligned with Europe, but now he said it is the West's turn to prosper because the new economy has changed position looking westward to the Pacific and Asia. My question is why didn't Newfoundland and Labrador prosper given its great location and great natural resource base during those wonderful exhilarating economic times when 21 Great Economies were created in the sphere that encompassed the European Nations that Canada did business with? My answer is our politicians weren't taking care of our province in the way they should have, Ottawa needed our resources to create vibrant economies in the Canadian Centre and our Newfoundland and Labrador politicians, both federal and provincial, allowed our great raw natural resources to be shipped off to Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and elsewhere to build economies. Of course they had their own personal economic benefit at heart. What else could it be? As a result the province of Newfoundland and Labrador was shafted with regard to building an economy of its own. I think if ever there was an Inquiry needed to look into an injustice, this is where it should be applied. Sent from my iPad

  • SkepticalNewfoundlander
    February 18, 2016 - 08:12

    FIRE SALE IN THE NEWFOUNDLAND GOVERNMENT!!! Everything must go! Are you tired of the government's hand in the tax payers pocket? Don't you wish it was your hand instead? Well my friend, let me introduce you to a wonderful new product, P3s! Now you might be worried, what if you can't make a profit from it. Well worry not my friend. The government won't be able to let you fail. All those delayed maintenance costs catch up to you? Government bailout. Your standard of care not quite up to snuff? Government bailout! Just not making enough profit? Government bailout! Can't afford the infrastructure investment? Tax break! Profit is guaranteed!!! *In very rare circumstances P3s have been know to affect your conscience when sick or elderly people can't get the care they need. **Government reserves the right to refuse sale based on how much you contributed to the current administration's campaign fund and who you play golf with.

  • What?
    February 17, 2016 - 12:23

    The wolves are at the door. We will regret it if we let them in.

  • steve
    February 17, 2016 - 12:00

    The NLC should be considered for a P3. The front line workers try to do the best they can. However the NLC management treat the public like fools. They expect you to dig deeper for less all the time

  • Mike
    February 17, 2016 - 11:42

    Let me ask the question; why not eliminate/modify the current severance package (age plus years of service) for all of the government management structure? Deputy Ministers, Assistant Deputy Ministers, Executive Directors, CEO's, Directors, Senior Managers and Junior Managers within government structure have a huge severance package which is why they do not cut/eliminate executive or management level positions. Now if our elected representatives do their job properly and alter/modify the fat severance package for all government management/executive levels they can cut a lot of management positions (with the larger salaries) which would be more effective in saving money. It would then be easy to thin out the top heavy management structure that exists within government. Some managers in government actually have no staff to manage or only have one staff to manage which is ridiculous. Use a VOTE in the “House of Assembly” to modify the severance package for all management level and above. Make the severance package for the frontline staff and all management/executive level the same!!! After 10 years of continuous service you get 1 week of salaried severance pay per each year of service up to a maximum of 20 weeks’ severance pay. Instead governments go after front line workers who have little or no severance package. Why? Because it is an easy target!!! Frontline staff has a small severance package when compared to management and the executive. But when government cut jobs the junior staff go first because of bumping and so on. So as an example a frontline clerk on the counter at motor vehicles ($37000 annual salary) who has 8 years and 11 months of continuous service gets NO severance payout. But the manager severance package payout is unrealistically huge (age plus years of service = number of weeks of salaried severance from the day they start). So as an example a manager who makes ($104000 annual salary) who is age 40 and has 19 years served with government gets 59 weeks of salaried severance pay at $2000 per week. That is just not sensible to me. This particular example of a manager severance payout scenario should only get 19 weeks of severance the same as an equivalent frontline staff member who has 19 years of service. Now once this new severance payout package is in place a MHA can eliminate positions properly. If the information provided needs adjustment then by provide additional constructive comments. Thanks.

  • Christopher Chafe
    February 17, 2016 - 10:53

    About time the people of NL elected a government that has the guts to consider the private sector as a viable alternative to public union workers.

  • The real Calvin
    February 17, 2016 - 09:58

    Bill T, the public tender act, which is used to award all the work you mentioned in your post, is a disgrace. Lowest bidder gets the job, so you have contractors under cutting one another to get work, then trying to make up the money/profit in ridiculous change orders. Or the lowest bidder is in way over their head and the result of the contract is work done inadequately. People figure that government mismanages money (which no doubt they do), but the greedy contractor is the one destroying budgets on construction projects, road work, etc. I agree that mentioning P3's produces foolish responses. However, maybe if Newfoundlander's weren't out to rape government on every job on the books we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place.

  • Winston Fiander
    February 17, 2016 - 09:51

    We pay for the services we receive from government whether it is by a public servant or a PPP. The only difference is the PPP must collect a profit. Someone will have to pay for the profit.

    • Reform the Fishing Industry!
      February 17, 2016 - 13:37

      Do Not go the P3 route, instead put everything on hold that we cannot afford until the economy turns around. What is needed though is more attention paid to getting a bigger share from Ottawa of the Fish Resource that we brought into Canada and then Reform the fishery in a manner that it works economically for the most people possible in our province. No Ands, Ifs or Buts the Fishing Industry is based on a renewable resource and it is singing out to be Reformed. It doesn't take too many brains to realize that need. Instead of selling off our fish to the Nordic countries for a pittance for them to build a bigger and more vibrant fishing industry, ask them instead to show us the tricks they have up their sleeves on creating vibrant economies from the fish resource right here in Newfoundland and alwbrador.

  • Bill
    February 17, 2016 - 09:15

    Funny that the Liberals are back tracking on their election promises. So easy to promise whatever you want when you're not accountable. Let's see how this turns out the next few months. Good to see that we are free to comment on this site. Vocm has muzzled everyone on their stories. Guess we know who is running that place. Sad.

  • 007
    February 17, 2016 - 09:03

    Having a bad day are we Brian? Sounds like a little anger management course may be in order. You compare P3's to McDonald's. There are many more businesses out there that provide competitive pricing, in addition to good service. Competition is good for business, good for the public, not like the monopoly the govt. has with our services, or lack off. In addition I feel it's unfair to target one business in your post.

  • Wells
    February 17, 2016 - 08:39

    The new government has only been in office for two months but between their 15 month consultation process on the economy and floating trial balloons throughout government I am left with the sense that they really do not have a plan to deal with the problems that have been obvious for a couple of years. They are overwhelmed.

      February 17, 2016 - 12:28

      I kinda' had the sense that whomever took over the role of provincial boss was going to have way more to deal with than they could have foreseen. That is anyone besides Davis. He knew the state things were in then and he may have secretly been relieved when he lost the election. I know that sounds crazy but really, having to face the mess the province is in and try to conjure some sort of workable plan even now seems like an utter nightmare. And of course it is and seems to be getting worse weekly. Whether Bennett or Ball are trying to unravel this mess we can be sure of one thing and that is hard times are in fact ahead and we had better brace ourselves for it. There will be cuts, raised taxes and round after round of lay offs ( better to do lay offs in small rounds; won't seem as heavy handed). There is no way around it.

  • maderighthere
    February 17, 2016 - 08:15

    I am all for P3's if there is absolute evidence that it works for the specific government service identified. I work in government and our department has many services that are provided by the private sector; IT services, surveys, research, consultants, etc. But from where I sit there is never any evaluation to determine whether there was a cost savings and if this could have been performed in-house using existing staff. ...NO OVERSITE. There are too many top management' Directors and Managers with no staff underneath them put there by politicians and senior bureaucrats. We need change alright and it needs to start with our political system.

    • Joe Pedantic
      February 17, 2016 - 10:34

      But would a P3 setup result in the correct spelling of "oversight"? I am not convinced.

    • maderighthere
      February 17, 2016 - 12:22

      Sorry!. That was an oversight on my OVERSITE. But you get the pint. Now stop bullying.

  • Bill T
    February 17, 2016 - 08:05

    Your family Doctor is a P3. So's your Dentist. Infrastructure is built using P3s. Do you think the road construction crews work for TW? The construction companies building new schools? Of course not. They are private companies working on contract for the province. Private companies working for public dollars. Let's stop the alarmist nonsense that P3s are the boogeyman. We use them every day in this province, and no one thinks its bad until you use that name.

    • roy206
      February 17, 2016 - 10:54

      Aren't the hospitals in Stephenville, Burgeo and maybe PAB already privately owned. Gov occupies lots of privately owned buildings and empty lots, which they rent from the owners,,, Same idea different terminology.

  • Brian
    February 17, 2016 - 07:53

    This government ( that I worked to elect) are a disappointment . There are immediate measures that could be put in place to help ( 5-7 cent a liter tax on gas and diesel) that would generate revenue and not terribly hurt consumers . But this government has not made a real effort . Now they talk about P3's where the bottom line is Profit . These partnerships do not serve the public s best interests, they are profit driven and that's the bottom line. Take McDonald s as an example. The service at these fast food outlets are providing and continue to provide miserable service ( like all the franchises that have a drive through s) . These are an example of not caring about the delivery of service but the bottom line (profit ) When there were no drive through options ,the customer received better service with speedy and accurate orders but now more often than not we are treated like cattle ( when we do get served) and disrespected because once they get our money we are unnecessary . McDonald's and other fast food outlets are an example of not being able to do things properly and efficiently and are purely profit driven and customer be damned . P3's are not about service and efficiency they are purely about profit Customer be damned.

    • james
      February 17, 2016 - 11:06

      Brian st.john,s already gets a cut of the gas tax

  • Anon
    February 17, 2016 - 06:55

    What a terrible idea. Why would we use public funds to subsidize a private business? By their very nature private enterprise is more expensive because they have to deliver a service and create profit for owners. The government has no mandate to make a profit, and thus can deliver a service more efficiently. Additionally, the current low interest rates make it a great time for the government to build infrastructure at a low cost.

  • What about the money pit
    February 17, 2016 - 05:19

    That money pit which is Muskrats Falls must be stopped. WHY SHOULD THE pUBLIC SERVICE be downsized to keep sandwich workers earn their 40$ job?

  • Ralph
    February 17, 2016 - 04:30

    Here come the vultures

  • Kelly
    February 16, 2016 - 21:41

    I know...maybe if they are all concerned about getting this defict down maybe they should take a pay cut or cut their spending out. Hummmm. Maybe turn the lights off at the confederation building at the end of the day might help too.

  • Catherine
    February 16, 2016 - 19:30

    Privatize: Motor of Registration, NL Liquor Corporation, Nalcor - just a few I can think of that should be privatized. Take a look at what other provinces are doing.

  • Dood
    February 16, 2016 - 19:03

    As it stands right now two months in and I don't believe a word Bennett or Ball says. Totally lied to us during the election campaign. P3s will be a disaster for NL. The rich will get richer. The new government is like the old government. Except worse.