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Manitoba turns down P3 option in new school construction

Myron Love
Manitoba turns down P3 option in new school construction

Manitoba’s Conservative government has looked into the potential of going the public-private partnership (P3) route in the construction of four new schools in Winnipeg and one in Brandon. 

As a result of that study, the province has announced that it will proceed with the traditional design-bid-build (DBB) process.

A recent press release from the offices of Finance Minister Cameron Friesen and Education Minister Ian Wishart states the government retained KPMG last year to explore the feasibility and benefits of building four new schools using a P3 partnership model, and to report on the experience of other jurisdictions.

“After a careful review of the information provided to us, with the expertise gained, we have decided to build these schools by enhancing our conventional Public Schools Finance Board (PSFB) approach,” the release states. “In applying the expertise gained from the P3 study, the Manitoba government determined that enhancing the DBB approach for the five new schools would result in the greatest value for money, while ensuring projects remain on schedule and on budget. Upon the completion of the P3 study, it was evident that many of the principles, innovations and methodologies of a P3 approach could be transferred and applied to the PSFB traditional DBB method of delivering schools.

“The PSFB estimates that there are savings of at least $18 million that can be realized over its conventional delivery methods. The savings will allow us to fund the construction of one more school than initially planned.”

The province will be investing well over $100 million on the new schools, with initial capacity for 3,300 students and 392 child-care spaces. Work is scheduled to begin on the schools over the course of the next two years.

Based on the KPMG study, the government will be adopting a compressed design schedule for the construction of the schools. The PSFB will use their own in-house design professionals to produce design efficiencies that should reduce costs and the length of construction. 

The two Seven Oaks Division schools (kindergarten to Grade 5 and kindergarten to Grade 8) in northwest Winnipeg would share some common design elements.

The two Pembina Trails schools (kindergarten to Grade 8 and grades 9 to 12) in southwest Winnipeg will be bundled as one package with design and construction activities to occur concurrently. Both schools will also be tendered as one package as they will be located on the same site and have the same completion timeline.

The Seven Oaks and Brandon schools will be built in an enhanced DBB delivery method as the schools can be readily designed and put out to tender in short order to capture favourable market conditions, explains the province.

Each school will be individually tendered to facilitate competitive bidding.

The decision not to use P3s to build the schools does not mean the government has turned entirely against the practice.

“We remain fully committed to the benefits of P3s and partnering with private enterprise,” the ministers state in their press release. “But we will always take a pragmatic – not ideological – approach to infrastructure financing and seek to find the best value for taxpayers.”

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