Could the ferry system in British Columbia be partially funded by private organizations? The Powell River Chamber of Commerce has launched the Fiscal Fairness Campaign to promote a public-private partnership solution for B.C. Ferry Service Inc. (click here to read the full BCBusiness article). But what exactly is a public-private partnership and how would it operate in this scenario? Don’t look any further, we have some answers for you:
1) What is a Public-Private Partnership (P3)?
The essence of the P3 arrangement is that government looks to the private sector to build and operate public infrastructure, backed by government guaranteed threshold returns. Some good examples of this in British Columbia would be the Canada Line and the Abbotsford Hospital. One such project that has not been as successful is the Golden Ears Bridge where, post-completion, the bridge has continued to operate at a loss.
2) How does a P3 operate?
This will vary from project to project. For example, the Canada Line was built by a private consortium, based on a 30-year projected rate of return on capital out of the fares paid by the commuters using the system. When it was complete and operational, it was turned over to InTransit B.C. to operate as a separate system but linked to the existing Skytrain system operated by Translink. Rates and fares on the Canada Line, however, are still subject to specific approval by the Transit Commissioner.
3) Is a P3 a feasible option for the ferry system in British Columbia?
This would not be a matter of the system being “partially funded” by a private sector operator. It would need to be completely owned and operated by a private consortium.
Just as the Ferry Commissioner now regulates and approves fares and charges for B.C. Ferries, that would still apply here to any private operator. There are already some privately-operated smaller systems in the interior of the Province. They operate under contract to government and fares (if charged) are subject to approval by the Ferry Commissioner.
Answers provided by George Cadman, Q.C.