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Opponents of P3 highway raise concerns in New Glasgow

NEW GLASGOW

Chris Majka calls it “highway robbery”.

At a town-hall style meeting held June 5 at Glasgow Square, the author of a report condemning the province’s plan to use the model of private-public partnership (P3) model in twinning Highway 104 from Sutherland’s River to Antigonish, said increased costs and service delivery are the primary issues.

“Highway robbery is alive and well and living in our province,” said Majka, whose report was released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and supported by funding from the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

In front of about 60 people, Majka and four others on a panel, all opposed to the P3 model for the highway’s argument, pointed to increased costs – Majka said the design and construction components of the expansion project are projected to cost $52.6 million more than one delivered by government – and expressed a lack of confidence that highway servicing from a private company would match expectations of the general public.

That was echoed by Joey Kelly, a highway worker from New Fredericton, N.B. who was one of the panelists. “Our service on those P3 highways in the winter months are very questionable,” he said.

They also wondered if the provincial government has something to hide; the department of transportation refuse to release more information about financial details for the proposed project when the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Nova Scotia spent more than $1,100 on a Freedom of Information request, only to receive little information back.

But Peter Hackett, chief engineer with the Transportation Department, told Saltwire Network this week that the Transportation Department’s value-for-money study with Ernst and Young came back with a positive projection for P3. He said the report isn’t being released in full due to privacy and competition reasons.

“As long as we’re out for tender, we would keep that information in-house and not get onto the street, because we don’t know how that would work on the bidding part of things, who would use that report for or against us.”

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