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More focus on public-private partnerships coming, says Conservative minister

The Conservative federal government will put a greater emphasis on public-private partnerships for future infrastructure projects, MP James Moore told delegates to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention in Victoria.

"I think we've had good success stories in B.C.," said Moore, the senior MP for B.C. and heritage minister. "I think it's gone well and I think it's a good model to pursue in the future."

In B.C., Partnerships BC first considers the suitability of any project that the province puts more than $50 million into to proceed as a PPP. The projects involve the private sector, often with a financing and ownership role.

In a speech to UBCM delegates yesterday, B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix received applause for saying an NDP government would allow local governments to decide whether or not projects should be P3s.

Asked if the federal government would make funding contingent on projects being completed as PPPs, Moore said, "There have been opportunities lost by communities who just said we don't want P3s in our community at all, and so funding then went to other communities."

It's hypothetical who will form the next B.C. government, he said, but "If somebody's elected on that mandate, either at the municipal level or provincial level saying we don't want P3 money for this particular project, then that's their decision."

Moore acknowledged that while former Premier Gordon Campbell and former transportation minister Kevin Falcon were strong supporters of PPPs, not every project has been a success. "The degree to which we haven't had success stories, those are moments of learning," he said.

Taxpayers tend to be concerned PPPs will lead to tolls and there can be division if some areas face tolls and others do not, he said.

There's more comfort with PPPs in B.C. than in the rest of the country, he said. "To be honest it's actually kind of less of a message for British Columbia than it is for other parts of the country because B.C.'s kind of been at the vanguard of this."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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