Kevin Falcon calls for new P3 era in British Columbia

Journal of Commerce | Warren Frey | November 22, 2022

British Columbia’s new opposition leader is calling for a new day for the P3 model in the province.

Kevin Falcon, leader of the B.C. United (formerly B.C. Liberal Party), was the keynote luncheon speaker on Nov. 21 at the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships (CCPPP) annual P3 conference held In Toronto.

Falcon delivered his speech via prerecorded video as he could not attend the conference in person due to attending question period at the B.C. legislature.

Falcon was elected to the legislature in 2001 and served as both minister of transportation and minister of finance during the B.C. Liberals time in power before leaving politics for the private sector in 2013. The B.C. Liberals were defeated by the NDP in 2017 and again in 2020.

“Under the former Liberal government, B.C. was a leader in North America in deploying public-private partnerships (P3). We oversaw in excess of $12 billion in projects and that continued after I stepped away from politics in 2013,” Falcon said.

“We wanted to respect taxpayers and give the best bang for their buck, and P3s were a big part of that. Increased use of P3s exposed our private sector to the successes that come with that model.

“It was a win-win-win,” Falcon said.

He cited projects such as the Sea to Sky Highway, which links Vancouver and Whistler and replaced a narrow and dangerous undivided two-lane highway with upgrades in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and the Canada Line, which goes from downtown Vancouver to Vancouver International Airport.

The current NDP government has opted to use community benefits agreements (CBA) which concentrate spending and risk on the government side but also put more towards labour and training.

Falcon dismissed the current NDP government’s attempts to increase housing affordability as a “policy faceplant.”

“The NDP has disdained and ignored the private sector, and only in the last year has the party met with developers,” he said. “The entire party ideologically vilifies the private sector, so I’m not hopeful.”

Falcon did caution that governments wishing to employ the P3 model would have to adapt to a changing world.

“Governments have to adapt to the current economic climate and be realistic about what the market is willing and able to accept,” he said. “The risk sharing approach needs to reflect the current climate and the realities we face today.”

Government must also incentivize training and encourage participation in the skilled trades, he added.

Falcon closed out his address by stressing the importance of bringing government and private sector expertise together to “accomplish great things.”

“The common thread through all this is the need for government to work with a combination of competent elected officials that can get big projects built and that means working with entities outside government,” he said, adding those attending the CCPPP conference could be among those pushing innovation forward.

“The conversations you have at this conference could be the key to success for P3s in B.C.,” Falcon said.

Follow the author on Twitter @JOCFrey.