Province to build six new institutes
Mere days before an expected election call, the Stelmach government has promised the Edmonton region six new schools that will be built through controversial public-private partnerships.
A Catholic school will be built in Terwillegar while three public schools will be built in Griesbach, Ellerslie and The Grange. Sherwood Park and Spruce Grove will both receive a new high school to serve roughly 2,200 students.
At a news conference yesterday, Education Minister Ron Liepert said he couldn’t commit to a completion date, but hopes to have the schools — 14 in total for the province — open for students in 2011 or 2012.
Critics of public-private partnerships, or P3s, say they cost more in the long run since contractors trade off a lower building price through securing lucrative long-term maintenance contracts.
But Liepert defended the model yesterday, saying they will allow schools to be built faster to serve areas with booming student populations.
"You can find ones that didn’t work, you can certainly find ones that did," he said. "All I know at the end of the day is that parents want the ability to have their kids walking to school and not riding in a bus for an hour."
A total cost of the schools can’t be calculated at this time, he said, because it will be determined later by whoever is the successful contract bidder.
Liberal critic Jack Flaherty said the P3 model shouldn’t be used for that very reason, pointing out that taxpayers won’t know the real financial cost for years to come.
"We have a minister who is dreaming and this is strictly a political exercise in trying to meet expectations without real knowledge of what it’s going to cost Albertans," he said. School projects were also announced yesterday for Calgary, Okotoks, and Langdon.