In a month or so, the Ontario Court of Appeal will hear a case that will set important legal standards for P3s in Canada, and determine whether municipalities can hide behind the complexities of such schemes to subsidize private developers while ignoring public procurement rules.
At issue is a P3 scheme to privatize Lansdowne Park which is arguably the City of Ottawa's most valuable public asset. You may have skated by it on the Rideau Canal -- a world heritage site.
The City has decided to give most of the park to private developers for commercial development while subsidizing their investments and losses in football and hockey franchises.
Friends of Lansdowne, a grassroots group, took the City to Court and lost round one. In giving the P3 scheme a pass, Justice Hackland of the Ontario Superior Court held that the views of City Council should be given great deference when it comes to carrying out a complex P3 project, stating that:
"To do otherwise would be to unduly restrict the public/private joint ventures that are of increasing importance in the establishment of municipal facilities and which often depend upon a complex exchange of benefits, assets and services to facilitate development."
Unlike most P3 fights, this one is about public space, not services. It is about the commons, and whether it will be enclosed by commercial interests. Lansdowne Park can be for the people of Ottawa, what such places as the Forks in Winnipeg, English Bay in Vancouver, or Millenium Park in Chicago are for those communities. Or it can be another place to shop.
You can find out more about this landmark legal challenge at: www.letsgetitright.ca
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