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Research Presentation by Bill Bonner and Morina Rennie

Fri., Mar. 6, 2015 10:30 a.m.

Location: Education Building, Room 558

Faculty members Bill Bonner and Morina Rennie will present their research entitled, "Regina’s P3 referendum: A vote hijacked by a war of numbers from nowhere".

Summary

Public Private Partnerships (P3a) are relatively recent innovations in the public infrastructure development space in Canada. This paper explores the strange circumstances surrounding a referendum held in Regina Saskatchewan, on City Hall’s prior decision to pursue a P3 model of building, financing and operating a municipal infrastructure project.  What started off as an instance of vibrant public engagement, ultimately forcing the referendum, turned into a war of numbers from nowhere; a contest between numbers without verifiable origins due to the practice of shielding P3 calculative technologies. 

Using Actor-Network Theory we focus on the enlistment by P3 proponents of numbers from the Value for Money chart contained in a report produced by experts, Deloitte, for the City. The expert calculations supporting these numbers were severely redacted in reports released to the public. Despite the lack of verifiable substance these numbers were enlisted by P3 proponents and came to speak volumes during the referendum, effectively drowning out all other discourse. This was aided by the public option proponents who challenged those numbers and added similarly unverifiable numbers of their own, turning the referendum into a war of expert-produced numbers without substance, reducing the referendum question to “Whose numbers do you trust?”

We problematize the Value for Money calculations used so persuasively in this local referendum with the hope of providing others facing similar situations the ability to shine a spotlight in the lack of substance of such numbers, thereby diminishing the ability of spokespersons to use them to hijack the democratic process, reopening the potential for political debate.