Public debates over public-private-partnerships (P3) rarely focus on the maintenance component of these agreements, even though it is this component that is the primary concern over the life of what are often thirty-year plus P3 contracts. While we sometimes get glimpses of what these maintenance contracts mean for our public institutions—prohibitions on decorating walls or opening windows, etc—for the most part, we assume that a P3 school or hospital operates much in the same way that a public school or hospital operates.
To understand how these decades-long contracts influence the day-to-day operations of these facilities, we interviewed 18 public sector workers employed at various P3 institutions across Saskatchewan to listen to their experiences. Our new report, A Partnership in Name Only: How the public sector subsidizes the P3 model by CCPA Saskatchewan Director Simon Enoch documents what we discovered from these interviews. Workers at these institutions shared three broad concerns with us, including how the P3 model serves to sow confusion about responsibilities and duties in these institutions, relies inordinately on public sector workers to remedy many of the deficiencies of the P3 contract and often fails in both design and function to promote the best interests of the publics they are supposed to serve.
What became evident as we listened to all of the problems and frustrations with the P3 model by the employees who work in them, is the extent to which public sector workers are constantly called upon to remedy the failures of the model. The report concludes that in a very real sense, the public sector is subsidizing the P3 model, “insofar as it simply couldn’t function to the degree it does if it was not for the largely unrecognized work of the public sector.”