Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

“The governing party has lost much of its enthusiasm for privatization”

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This is not the headline chosen by the subs at the Sun for a Vaughan Palmer opinion piece. But it is his remarkable conclusion after analyzing why BC Ferries have not seen “alternative service delivery” or more competition.

Even the Washington Group’s proposal to use the fast ferries forn a service from Vancouyver to Nanaimo did not start, and of course Harbour Lynx on the same route folded when it found that a ferry service with only one vessel was too vulnerable to happenstance.

I see no evidence outside of BC Ferries to support Palmer’s conclusion. Although it is similar to the experience of ICBC – which was thought to be on the block but has proved too useful. Such a fate did not befall BC Hydro – where the potential profits from exporting power to California are still so mouthwatering to the private sector that the province’s long term policies for electricity supply were simply thrown away. And of course the expected extension of privatisation in the health care sector stalled too.

Given the economic and political fallout so far, I am surprised that they have stuck to their guns, but pig headedness is still considered a virtue by the right wing. And of course still bedevils transport policy. Elsewhere in the world privatisation is slowly being unwound. The French have announced that they will take water supply back into the public sector – and it has been priavte there for 100 years! The British have been taking back bits of their transport system – starting with the national railway track and chunks of the London Underground. And the worldwide banking crisis (or “credit cruch”) is severely limiting what new projects can be financed this way. Although public sector employee pension funds are still looking for safe bets for their money, and “risks” backed up by recourse to taxpayers still look pretty good from their point of view.

When the special office for selling things off (“Partnerships BC” – a wonderful example of newspeak) is shut down, then I will agree with Mr Palmer. But we can be expected to pay for the Liberals enthusiasm for many years to come on the projects now underway – and to come.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 16, 2008 at 10:41 am

Posted in privatisation

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