The Real Legacy of Public-Private-Partnership (P3) Schools in Nova Scotia

Reinventing the Building of Schools revisits the history of public-private partnerships for school construction. Though the province’s experience with P3’s since the mid-1990s has been widely described as a failure, the paper contends that the record is far more favourable. While there are numerous “hard lessons” to take from Nova Scotia’s P3 policies, it is in the public interest to revisit the model for future projects.

Author Paul Bennett, Founding Director of Schoolhouse Consulting, contends that “public criticisms of the P3 school deals have been overstated and amplified by politically-driven research.” The critical issue is not whether the province should purchase or “buy-out” private contractors, “but how we can sustain the innovative impulse unlocked by the first generation of P3s – nurture the innovative ideas, recapture entrepreneurial spirit, and move ahead with a more flexible, integrated and responsive school building process.”

Among the report’s recommendations is to establish a Capital Asset Management Framework (CAMF) and expand the range of strategic options from public procurement to alternative service models. It also calls on the province to establish “Partnerships NS” as a P3 advisory committee, tapping into entrepreneurial innovation.

“The history of P3’s for Nova Scotia school construction carries a bad reputation at present,” said Dr. Marco Navarro-Génie, President and CEO of AIMS. “Paul Bennett demonstrates that, with a revised model, these partnerships will continue to be a necessary tool for procurement.”


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The report offers the following recommendations:

  1. Make school capital planning a higher priority of the government and initiate a multi-year school construction and renovation planning process.
  2. Establish a Capital Asset Management Framework (CAMF) and expand the range of strategic options from public procurement to alternative service models.End the current counterproductive division of responsibilities in school planning between the department and school boards.
  3. Build upon the foundation laid by public-private partnerships by establishing “Partnerships NS,” as a P3 advisory committee, tapping into entrepreneurial innovation.
  4. Expand the network of school-level facilities management teams from P3 schools to regular schools, as a demonstration of community engagement.
  5. Conduct a comprehensive audit of the P3 school planning and management venture assessing the hard lessons, community impact, costs and benefits to the public.
  6. Develop a new set of provincial guidelines for identifying P3s, including clear performance standards and criteria for selection.
  7. Establish criteria for evaluating progress in reinventing school planning and management process, drawing upon the latest research in public sector management, including value-for-money (VfM) analysis and P3 screening.


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Author

Paul
Bennett