N.S. govern­ment to buy 10 schools for $50M

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC -

The Nova Sco­tia govern­ment is shelling out nearly $50 mil­lion to buy 10 schools built through pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships nearly two decades ago.

The prov­ince said Wed­nes­day that the lit­tle more than $49 mil­lion it will pay two pri­vate de­vel­op­ers, Nova Learn­ing and Ash­ford In­vest­ment, is the “best value for Nova Sco­tia tax­pay­ers.”

The Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment says in a news re­lease that pur­chas­ing the P3 schools will lead to “sub­stan­tial sav­ings,” com­pared to re­new­ing the leases for the next 30 years.

It ex­pects to save $21.5 mil­lion by pur­chas­ing the three Ash­ford schools and $34.9 mil­lion by pur­chas­ing the seven Nova Learn­ing schools.

The prov­ince will pur­chase the Antigo­nish Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre, the Bayview Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre in Port Hood and Dal­brae Academy in Mabou from Ash­ford In­vest­ments for a to­tal price of $16 mil­lion.

It will also pur­chase seven schools from Nova Learn­ing for $33.2 mil­lion: Maple Ridge Ele­men­tary School in Lantz, Mead­ow­fields Com­mu­nity School in Yar­mouth, Cham­plain Ele­men­tary School in Granville Ferry, For­est Ridge Academy in Bar­ring­ton, Bayview Com­mu­nity School in Ma­hone Bay, Pine Ridge Mid­dle School in Kingston, and North­east Kings Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre in Canning.

In 1998, the prov­ince signed long-term leases with four de­vel­op­ers for 39 P3 schools.

It has since pur­chased 37 of those schools at a cost of $215.9 mil­lion. Two of the P3 schools were “sur­ren­dered,” or re­turned to the de­vel­oper.

The Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment says it con­sulted with school boards to de­ter­mine their in­fra­struc­ture needs and long-term plans be­fore buy­ing the schools.

NDP leader Gary Bur­rill called the pur­chas­ing of the P3 schools a “nec­es­sary but lam­en­ta­ble” step in a failed process.

“P3 schools have been a failed ex­per­i­ment in Nova Sco­tia,” Bur­rill said in a news re­lease. “The people of our prov­ince are pay­ing for the Lib­er­als’ mis­takes.”

Al­though he said buy­ing the schools is the right de­ci­sion, Bur­rill said it doesn’t “erase the mess” they have cre­ated.

The NDP leader said the prov­ince has spent $700 mil­lion on P3 schools over two decades.

Last fall, the prov­ince’s au­di­tor gen­eral crit­i­cized the govern­ment for ex­er­cis­ing poor judg­ment with the P3 model of build­ing schools and fail­ing to take timely and ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion on the fu­ture of P3 schools.

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