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New law clarifies public-private partnerships

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The Selinger government is casting a wide net as it fashions legislation that would force more light onto future public-private partnerships.

Groups as diverse as the Manitoba Boxing Commission, the Public Trustee and the Helen Betty Osborne Memorial Foundation will fall under the scope of Bill 33 when it is introduced in the legislature in the coming weeks or months -- not just municipal governments and Crown corporations.

The proposed Public-Private Partnerships Transparency and Accountability Act, promised in last November's throne speech, is the government's response to public concerns about a lack of transparency in large-scale public-private partnerships such as the 30-year sewage plant upgrade deal with Veolia Canada Winnipeg city council approved last week.

The proposed legislation would cover virtually every entity that reports to the provincial government, from regional health authorities and government departments to the Veterinary Science Scholarship Fund, Sport Manitoba, the provincial Victims' Assistance Fund and the legislative assembly itself.

Winnipeg city Coun. Dan Vandal, who chairs the Manitoba Boxing Commission, couldn't help but laugh when asked if he was surprised the proposed P3 law would apply to the boxing and mixed martial arts regulator.

"I can't think of anything where the commission would be involved in a P3. The more likely scenario would be City of Winnipeg water or City of Winnipeg sewage, which has a much more complex relationship with private enterprise."

Sandra DeLaronde, administrator for the Helen Betty Osborne Memorial Foundation, was also caught off guard when told her organization was on the province's P3 radar list.

"We're just a very small fish, you know, when you compare it to the, say, sewer and water partnership (with the city of Winnipeg)," she said. The foundation raises money to support aboriginal students attending post-secondary institutions.

A government spokeswoman said in an email Friday the legislation would mainly affect entities that engage in major capital projects, such as schools, municipalities, hospitals and Manitoba Hydro.

"The Victims' Assistant Fund is extremely unlikely to undertake a major capital project (because) it is a fund designed for victims of crime," she said, adding it was easier for the government to "include everyone rather than try and decide and guess who will build a major capital project and who wouldn't."

In an earlier interview, Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk said the bill is still being tweaked to make sure all the bases are covered.

It's possible, she said, that it won't be introduced before the legislature breaks for the summer June 17. "There is still some discussion going on with various people that could be affected by it."

Many organizations covered

Entities that will be covered under legislation governing public-private partnerships:

Municipal governments and provincial government departments;

All regional health authorities and entities such as CancerCare Manitoba and the St. Amant Centre;

Public school divisions, universities, colleges and other educational agencies;

Agricultural organizations such as the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie and Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp.;

Infrastructure and transportation organizations such as the Manitoba Floodway and East Side Authority, the Manitoba Water Services Board and the Crown Lands and Property Agency;

Cultural and tourism groups such as the Manitoba Arts Council and Travel Manitoba;

Government enterprises, such as the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission, Manitoba Lotteries Corp., Workers Compensation Board and Manitoba Public Insurance.

-- Source: Province of Manitoba

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2010 A5

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