The debate over the waste water project continues. According to Wascana MP Ralph Goodale’s blog, the City of Regina will face the Wrath Of Harper – in the form of a $60 million penalty – if the City of Regina doesn’t use the P3 funding formula.

And why is that? Whether the funding for the project is done through the conventional route, or through the P3 route, the government is still spending money: the difference is that through the P3 route, most of the money goes to the private sector (i.e. they make the money off of it). This is why you never hear anti-tax groups complain about P3 projects – otherwise, any other form of government spending is a ‘waste of money,’ in their opinion.

But there’s precious little evidence that a P3 run system will provide any better service or be cheaper in the long run than the current funding mode – and, according to the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives, a lot of evidence that it doesn’t. The money just moves from one ledger on the government’s books to another – which is why right-of-centre governments like it: it hides deficit capital spending. But if the service is okay – and there’s nothing the matter with the way it’s running, the equipment and infrastructure is just worn out – then why change the service delivery system? It’s not the problem.

The P3 model may or may not be a more cost-effective system. Hell, it’s probably not, without the evidence of a lot more study that neither the City nor the federal government will provide. But it stands to make a few people in the private sector richer. Put it another way: if the P3 model is so good in this case, why would the federal government force a $60 million penalty on the project if another funding model is used? If the P3 project can’t stand on its own financial and operational merits something is really, really wrong with the project.

It appears as though the petitions’ organizers are going to have to fight Stephen Harper as much as they have to fight City Hall – in this case, Mayor ‘Don’t Care’ Fougere.