Canadian Consulting Engineer

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Quote: Privatize infrastructure — watch for government regulation


In an opinion article published November 16 in the Globe and Mail, Tony Keller responds to the Trudeau government’s recent meetings with large fund investors to encourage them to invest in building infrastructure.

In his article entitled “Let’s not get railroaded again on infrastructure,” Keller writes:

“There is almost nothing new under the sun, and building infrastructure through public-private partnerships is not a new idea. Nor is it a crazy idea. But it’s not a magic idea. It doesn’t conjure money out of the air. At the end of the day, somebody has to pay. And to the extent that it isn’t the taxpayer, it will be the user.

“The Trudeau government now has a group of investment bankers evaluating the possibility of privatizing Canada’s airports, and another firm considering the ports. These don’t even need to be public-private partnerships – if these assets are to be sold off, it should be a simple privatization. Canada’s ports and airports don’t need a taxpayer subsidy.

“But if they are privatized, what they are going to need is heavy government oversight and regulation. Why? Because they’re all monopolies or near-monopolies. Calgary isn’t going to have multiple competing airports. If ports and airports – and sewage systems, electricity grids, highways and bridges – are privatized, the job of government becomes more essential than ever. It must protect consumers and citizens against the people who just bought its formerly public assets. It has to regulate the newly privatized monopolies so that they make a reasonable profit, but not more. Once the deals are done, it has to adopt a somewhat adversarial relationship.”

To read the article, click here.