HALIFAX, NS – The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) today published a policy study about procurement for public school construction. With recent public controversy about “queue jumping” Nova Scotia school construction, the paper provides a sober commentary on the state of procurement in the province.
AIMS is Atlantic Canada’s only independent public policy research organization, publishing peer-reviewed studies on a wide range of topics, including healthcare, education, public finance, energy and trade. The Institute supports a free-market economy and sound public policy. Unique among regional think tanks, it operates entirely free from government subsidy.
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.”