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British Columbia, Canada has voted and an informed public is 'against' 3P's 'pilfering the public purse'
  Mar 22, 2009

A random sample of 1,335 respondents throughout British Columbia between November 7-16th, 2006. This poll features a margin of error of 3.45%, 19 times out of 20 @ 95% competency/confidence. This poll was jointly sponsored by Glen P. Robbins and Associates and New Trend Optical-proprietor Jim Van Rassel (604) 942-9300. Questions for the poll were designed by Glen P. Robbins with input from Jim Van Rassel, who also provided significant research material for this project. Final copy was agreed to by Glen P. Robbins, Jim Van Rassel with some outside consultation with third parties including input from outside 'experts' who have indicated that they prefer to be anonymous (fearing for either their jobs or their lives).

Question #1
Do you know and understand what 3P’s or private public partnerships are?
Yes    52.5 %
No    48 %
Question #2
Relative to other public policy issues such as health, education, transportation etc., how important is government accountability with taxpayer dollars to you?
Very Important    31 %
Important    33 %
Unimportant    24 %
Very Unimportant    12 %
Question #3
Are you in favour of private public partnerships, where government and private business collaborate on large dollar projects?
Yes    50 %
No    50 %
Question #4
Do you trust the bookkeeping of the BC Liberal government sufficiently to permit them to develop large projects for British Columbians with tax dollars without significant oversight or control by persons like the Auditor General?
Yes    44 %
No    56 %
Question #5
Do you trust large business consortiums sufficiently to permit them to develop large projects for British Columbians with tax dollars without significant oversight or control?
Yes    27 %
No    73 %
Question #6
When private public partnerships are utilized to build large projects in the province, it is not possible for a complete and thorough review of the project on behalf of the taxpayer, owing to the fact that private corporations are involved and are not subject to the same accountability as government is expected to be. Is this an acceptable type of format for use of your tax dollars?
Yes    22 %
No    78 %
Question #7
In a typical situation involving private public partnerships, a project costs 1 billion dollars for example. Two-thirds of that cost is absorbed by the government on behalf of the people, while one-third PLUS any additional cost overruns are absorbed by the private company. Thereafter, the finished project is run and controlled by the private company who leases it back to the government and the taxpayer who than pays that private company about 15% of the value of the project. If cost overruns in our scenario are $300 million than the government has put up 660 million and the private company the same amount. The government than pays the private company 200 million in lease costs over a 30 year period, and the private company operates the project including all revenues and expenses. After all of this which of the following should design, build, and operate large capital projects in British Columbia such as the Canada Line, the Sea-to-Sky highway, Abbotsford Hospital and others?
The government on behalf of the taxpayers and subject to full scrutiny and accountability    69 %
Private public partnerships that absorb some of the costs including cost overruns, and operate the system thereafter    15 %
Neither/Other    16 %
Question #8
Private public partnerships are not permitted to be used on elements of the Skytrain development.. In your opinion which of the following choices BEST reflects why the BC Liberal government has elected not to build Skytrain from Vancouver to Richmond, and in the northeast sector including Coquitlam?
If the BC Liberal government have to be accountable for Skytrain costs, they have to be accountable for cost overruns, and would thus rather build a system where accountability is not required    54 %
The BC Liberal government believes that notwithstanding accountability rules,the models they are using for development are better than Skytrain and private public partnerships are better for the taxpayer    26 %
Neither/Other    20 %
Question #9
In your opinion would you like to see?
larger government    17 %
smaller government    31 %
government the size that it is now    52 %
Question #10
The Conservative federal government under Stephen Harper is contributing to the construction of a highway in Quebec along with the Quebec provincial government and Premier Jean Charest. Prime Minister Harper is also blaming the federal Liberals for frustrating the passing of his accountability legislation which has at its core greater powers for oversight of the use of taxpayer dollars? In your opinion are the Conservative government’s efforts with regards to the private public initiative on a Quebec highway therefore inconsistent with the goals of accountability in government?
Yes    66 %
No    34 %
Question #11
Of the following two political leaders and their parties, whom do you trust most with your tax dollars?
Premier Gordon Campbell and BC Liberals    24 %
Prime Minister Stephen Harper    29 %
Neither    47 %
Question #12
Do you regularly vote in federal and provincial elections?
Yes    67 %
No    33 %
Question #13
If an election was held in British Columbia tomorrow for which political party would you caste your ballot?
BC NDP    42 %
BC Liberals    43.5 %
BC Green    10.5 %
Other    03 %
Undecided    11 %
Commentary
Observations:
Approximately one-half of respondents in this ROBBINS ASK poll indicate they “know and understand” what 3P’s are. Two-thirds believe accountability with taxpayer’s dollars to be Very important or Important.
Generally, (prior to being asked more questions relating to private public partnerships), respondents are split on their acceptance of 3 P’s. Just less than one half of respondents trust the BC Liberals “without significant oversight and control” of the BC Auditor General, while less than one-third trust big business “without significant oversight and control.” Some respondents declared that it was the Opposition’s job in a Parliamentary system to keep the government honest. The BC Liberals may not have helped themselves by not opening the legislature for debate this fall.
Support for 3 P’s falls to slightly more than one in five when a fundamental flaw of public private partnerships is expressed to them (a lack of accountability). Whether or not critics would argue this is a push question, is not sufficient to render this question irrelevant or the research unscientific. It is necessary to acquire some understanding of how respondents perceive private public partnerships when they are explained to them. This is certainly valid when the federal government is pushing for the passage of its accountability legislation, and the trend in large transportation projects is going in the opposite direction.
This ratio of support is sustained in the following question (#8) when a typical scenario (3P) is provided. It was necessary to include the Neither/Other choice to permit respondents who might have been ‘overheated’ owing to the ‘shock’ of identifying the fatal shortcoming of 3P’s (as determined by their responses not pre-determined by us), and in some instances to realize they really had no idea what a private public partnership was beyond the involvement of private and public money (if they knew this). Nonetheless it was important to see where the respondents would land relative to the questions preceding, and those that followed. The understanding that these multi-billion dollar deals can be constructed essentially behind closed doors blurs any of the apparent advantages provided for in Question #8.
In Question #9, the competence/confidence element of the question is ‘less than’ scientific because it asks respondents to presume what was in the mind of decision maker, however measured against other responses (before and after) it does provide some greater insight as respondents need to decide if they are going to reject a possible BC Liberals ‘explanation’ or find a way back to support them in some capacity, perhaps as the question suggests as “a variation on the model of transportation.’ 20% of the respondents do not choose either (a) or (b), and opt for Neither/Other instead. Questions #8 and #9 are utilized to determine the range of more hard core support for the BC Liberals with respect to their part in the development of 3P projects. It isn’t high.
We believe that about one-third of respondents are sufficiently true blue to the BC Liberals to accept private public partnerships even if many of them do not support 3P’s, (at least to the extent that we delivered an impression of them). If we consider only voters in this poll, this latter number is closer to 37%. The core support for private public partnerships when challenged against accountability standards appears to be about one in five (18%), yet despite this double this amount (voters) will support it because the BC Liberals are ‘doing it’, and this number exceeds 40% because the Conservatives (federal are ‘doing it’) with Quebec.
A clear majority of respondents prefer government to be “smaller” or “the same size”. In this ROBBINS ASK poll those respondents who prefer smaller government are somewhat more inclined to favour private public partnerships. In Question #10, two-thirds of respondents are of the opinion that Stephen Harper’s 3P deal with the Quebec provincial government is inconsistent with his government’s accountability legislation.
The slightly higher number of respondents who still support the Harper government in Quebec is based in our judgement primarily on the fact that (i) there are two levels of government involved (ii) the Conservatives are more trusted with money, and (iii) the deal is taking place across the country in Quebec.
Voters throughout the province are split on support for BC’s two main political parties, the BC NDP and BC Liberals. The BC NDP have nearly 10 per cent more public support than BC Liberals on Vancouver Island. The BC Liberals are 5% higher in Vancouver proper. The BC Liberals are 10% higher in Richmond and on the North Shore. The BC NDP is 6% higher in Burnaby, Tri-City, Surrey, New Westminster, and Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows. The BC Liberals are 14% higher in the Fraser Valley, and have 8% more support east of hope. I would speculate that a seat count would make an election a near dead heat. If you hear any different in the media don’t believe it, it’s fundraising/advertising ‘swizz’.
Conclusions/Glen P. Robbins
It is doubtful that one half of respondents fully understand what private public partnerships are as they have indicated in this ROBBINS ASK poll. We say this because one in two indicate they know what 3P’s are, but only one if five supports a ‘typical’ private public partnership. Upon scrutiny of discovery in this poll, the vast majority of British Columbians do not support them. In the alternative, if the respondents who say they understand 3P’s in fact do understand them, than 60% of those who support them, change their minds during the interview. If as our critics might suggest the respondents were ‘pushed’ into rejecting 3P’s, than it certainly didn’t take much pushing.
In our Province’s history large construction projects undertaken with the public’s money have been the focus of controversy and (too often) wide scale corruption. Many times friends and associates of one or more elected officials end up becoming wealthy, when they shouldn’t have. Often, the Opposition party waits long enough for the corruption to settle in and than exposes it with the expectation of becoming government post the revelation. The Opposition may in fact exist to hold the government accountable, but if there is no sitting of the legislature to debate matters of government, OR the Opposition would prefer to ‘sit on’ the information until the timing is better, than ultimately the money is lost forever and the people are left to scratch their heads over yet another scandal.
3P’s potentially exacerbate this potential public ‘fraud’ to the extent that we will never know what precisely transpired. The books are closed to the taxpayer. Once a private company is involved, proper oversight disappears. ANY oversight disappears. What precisely is the rationale for this emerging P3 monster anyhow? According to Gordon Campbell, it’s government debt. As it is right now how much of this government debt problem did Gordon Campbell’s government contribute. My research indicates that Gordon Campbell’s BC Liberals are just as responsible for structural debt as the BC NDP was. In essence, Gordon Campbell’s government has contributed to the problem of structural debt in order to set in motion the 3P monster. Are these 3P’s under Gordon Campbell’s BC Liberal government potentially the crime of the century in BC’s history? My gut instincts and the facts as we know them, including the opinions of the public tell me they will be.
Does rising structural debt provide a sane rationale for 3P’s? Consider our example in question #7. Why should there be cost overruns if the government prices the project correctly in the first place? Would a successful business permit such cost overruns in their budget? Of course not. In essence what the government is doing is saying, ‘look these businesses are good enough to invest their money in our public projects to ensure our debt doesn’t escalate.’ We should really be asking the question “why would anyone in their right mind loan a business one half of the money for a project interest free, and than pay that business a leaseback fee for thirty years on top of the profits they will make from the operation of the business?”
Our history of government reflects the reality that government often goes to great lengths to hide the truth (the whole truth) from the public. The BC NDP under Glen Clark went to great lengths to hide information from the public on a number of occasions. They also went to great lengths to help their friends. They helped their legal friends (Berger/Laxton et al) in Hydro projects overseas, and with charity gambling proceeds (Nanaimo Bingogate) here at home. Social Democrats have no moral authority to claim they are more honest than free enterprise governments. Larger governments do not necessarily mean more accountable governments.
Federal Liberals brought shame and disgrace upon our entire nation and placed the country in jeopardy, and now while they await a new leader, their pollsters and the mainstream news tell us that allegedly only one in one hundred of us now care about the fact that they were crooked (accountability). (At this level of propaganda, we expect in five years time no-one will be following the mainstream news, and organizations like ROBBINS ASK WILL be driving the new Internet News).
If governments whose budgets and spending are (supposed to be) accountable and we still see money go missing, how accountable are private public partnerships going to be? 3P’s or private public partnerships are a recipe for DISASTER. It isn’t a question of “if” so much as a question of “when”. 3P’s are specifically designed to keep the public from knowing what is going on. Gordon Campbell drew up the blueprint for this in this province on July 8, 2002 at the Address at P3 Transportation Conference in Vancouver. In a keynote address the Premier said:
“I’ve travelled around the province for the last decade now, and there hasn’t been a time when I’ve visited a region and they haven’t talked to me about a transportation problem……..A little while ago there was a classic discussion about whether or not there should be a toll on the road from Vancouver to Whistler. One of the people who commented said, “I don’t have any money, why doesn’t the government just do it? But there is no such thing as government money. It’s all your money----money we take out of the public’s pocket to provide public service.”
The Premier recognized the fact that a transportation problems existed in ‘every region’ of the province, and he recognized that the government was in debt, as he described it “structural debt”. His solution for the taxpayer? 3P’s! Bring private capital and management into the equation and the public would be better off. Translated this meant, ‘a private company can build it, but BC taxpayers will have to pay for much of it and subsidize the private company for years afterward’, or in the alternative ‘we can share the cost, but we won’t show you the books.’ The Premier clearly recognized in this speech that it is taxpayer’s money which “provides public service”. If this was his opinion in 2002, how can he in good conscience be an advocate for private public partnerships when they are not accountable to “the public pocket”? British Columbians we speak to, from east end Vancouver to the suburban middle class in the lower mainland, to people in rural regions of the province say the same thing, ‘we are too busy surviving to pay attention to politics.’ Do our leaders consciously take advantage of this? Do they slip policy under the radar of the public with the help of distracting news, and the manipulation of the media in order to take our money and deprive us of our rights to accountability? The evidence strongly suggests this is the case!
How can we believe Gordon Campbell? He said he would not sell BC Rail and he did. He said he would not sell off our gas interests and he did. Former Socred Premier Bill Vander Zalm, a free enterpriser in his own right has been against both of these sales. The Coquihalla toll would be stopped as soon as the road was paid for, but it’s been paid for many times over and still there is a toll. The Premier wanted to sell the Coquihalla to private or union interests but ROBBINS (and the good people) stopped him (and a few other better known organizations took the credit). The Coquihalla is managed by private interests and anytime the weather goes bad, you can tell. To save money maintaining the road the private company doesn’t properly keep it up.
Roads and highway construction are items which justify taxation. Only the government can tax its citizens. Only the government can put (in this case), the province into debt. Now apparently only the government can use this as an excuse to keep the ‘numbers’ from the people whose money is being used for the projects.
Conservatives won’t like me saying this but it needs to be said. Yes the debt is high, but compared to the value of the assets of the province the debt is not ‘relatively high’. Furthermore this is not a sufficient rationale to undertake billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money with private legal entities (companies) that put the government in the position that because of this partnership, proper disclosure and accountability is no longer required. If we have to go into debt another 2 billion dollars to construct large undertakings, (over and above that which is already pledged) the spending from which can be absolutely verified, than so be it.
Corporatism (the relationship between government and Corporations with respect to the development and design of public policy) in and of itself is not a good thing. Large corporations have become more like government in the last quarter century. They are often inefficient, and infrequently innovative (despite all the silly awards they give each other). Small business on the other hand is what drives the province. Corporations have created havoc for our democratic institutions; they should not have any input in public policy. Government becomes a train wreck (see: BC Rail) when those corporations are either directly or through corporate agents, friends and associates or lobby groups financing the political party who is in government, and who could later be granted contracts to partner in these massive capital relationships known as 3P’s.
Freedom of Information in British Columbia doesn’t have enough money. Reporters are at the mercy of their editorial boards who are in turn at the mercy of their advertising departments and accountants, shareholders etc. Does this sound like the type of ‘democratic structure’ from which to introduce massive taxpayer expenditures with no accountability? With hundreds of millions of dollars in the mix, how much goes to friends and consultants, accountants, lawyers, which is than funneled back to politicos through influence or even worse, straight away bribes?
I’m sorry, Gordon Campbell may have some good points, but no politician, and particularly this one, is someone I want to spend money without absolute oversight. I don’t trust him and his friends. I don’t trust any politician without oversight. If there is a way to get a little extra ‘booty’ and not be found out, many politicians will take it. That isn’t just my opinion; it’s the opinion of just about everyone else that isn’t a politician or linked to a politician.
3P’s, private public partnerships are the nirvana of potential political larceny. It is a trick which is not really well understood, because apparently we either aren’t paying attention, or we don’t give a damn, or we are just fools. But clearly when confronted with the reality of 3P’s as is evident in this ROBBINS ASK poll, we, the public, understand that the complete lack of accountability makes these new Campbell driven ‘animals’ a very dangerous beast.
If the Conservative government truly cared about accountability, I mean the kind of accountability that a really good democracy demands, they would understand that the public has been squeezed and conned beyond capacity for far too long, and they would never shirk their responsibility to be accountable NO MATTER THE COST, even if that means re-election. If Canadians are so bloody stupid that they think the next batch of Liberals have earned their trust overnight as the bought mainstream pollsters suggest they don’t deserve good government.
The Conservative party under Prime Minister Stephen Harper should NEVER permit these ‘3P licenses to steal’, and should NEVER kowtow to the bureaucracies, the power brokers, the lobbyists, their propaganda public opinion companies, and the mainstream press who drives the getaway car for the ‘grand theft public’, “hereinafter private public partnerships”.
If the Province of Quebec wants to build a highway, the Conservative government should give them the federal ‘share’ of resources they are obligated to provide, but should not participate in an action with an unaccountable private business. If the Conservatives are serious about doing the right thing, get the private businesses to waive their right to privacy on the side of the corporate ledger involving the people’s business. We want to see their damn books if they are playing with our dough!
Mr. Harper, why would you pay attention to ‘shylock’ news stories that suggest only 1% of the public cares whether the government steals their money or not. The Liberals want to regain government and don’t want accountability laws in place, otherwise they can’t steal from the public. That is what motivates this kind of electioneering type polling. The news produces it, in order to make politics interesting and to hedge their bets on both sides of the aisle. But it is worse than propaganda, it’s an outright lie.
This is simple, at ROBBINS ASK we are telling it like it is, and those of you who are hoping to steal the public’s money know we are. At ROBBINS ASK we’ve got the corrupt politicians number! If you’re no good we’ll find you out. But we’ve only covered the provincial and federal governments, what about the municipal governments, the ones closest to the people? Well my friends welcome to quaint, pretty Port Moody B.C. and developing Coquitlam.
Here in the Tri-City (BC), Port Moody is hoping to build light rail for a billion plus (that no-one except a few property owners) want, has gone through a Don King Boxing like ‘competitive’ process for a restaurant at a nearby marina, has been sued for it (the guy doing the suing seems pretty happy in his new restaurant after selling his old one), has given away the restaurant for a song to a BC public company with ties to the BC Liberals, who have now ‘flipped’ the restaurant (to ameliorate their own financial woes) to a U.S. company, and the BC Liberal transportation Minister Kevin ‘the Hawk’ Falcon now wants a 3P on the aformentioned light rail project. Oh I get it, wanna bet we get private money from the United States on this ‘white elephant to be’ light rail project? I wonder if the money will come from Portland Oregon (or the vicinity) where the restaurant money came from? We’ll never see the pay-offs that come out of this deal, (except for the Land Title searches along St. John), but you can bet your bottom dollar (you have no choice), there will be ‘grease to go round’ for the chubby little politicians and their friends.
In Coquitlam Maxine Wilson and other members of council think that light rail is a good thing even if nobody wants it, as one researcher informed us in face to face interviews with council members “because it will improve land values.” That’s right, Coquitlam city council (the same one that didn’t say a word when a recent councilor left town 9 months after being elected to move to Vancouver Island creating the need for a multi-thousand dollar by-election) isn’t concerned with moving people, rather they want to spend one billion dollars on a useless transportation white elephant {the never 2 be seen Evergreen Line} so that land values go up. Now boys and girls that’s leadership….Not.
Mr. Harper, and Mr. (James) Moore, we honestly expected better from you. Perhaps you could start in BC by clearly and distinctly separating Conservative MP’s with constituency executives with strong ties to the BC Liberals. You see, once you compromise any part of your integrity the rest goes out the window. Look at ROBBINS ASK Campus 20/20 poll. Do you really think the $10 million dollars for Liberal Geoff Plant is to help university students? Be serious, this is money for the federal Liberal party paid by British Columbians and rinsed through the BC Liberals, the same people who are supposed to be your friends. I still don’t see a bona fide Conservative party in this province, and Gordon Campbell isn’t looking conservative to me.
Push for accountability. If the federal Liberals keep frustrating the legislation, push it to the limit and than call an election as soon as they elect a leader. Look at my polling website. Look at the accuracy. We’re able to do this because we don’t ‘pimp’ for anyone. We tell it as it really is. We actually talk to the people, and they are sick of unaccountability, and sick of weak courts with criminals. Some of these ‘criminals don’t want accountability.’ They want an easy way to steal the people’s money. Call the election, Stephen Harper you will win.
You heard it from the best. (Maybe not the most humble).

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