Yet again the spectre of corruption looms large at city hall. There is a push to get private businesses (read “huge, well-connected insiders”) involved in the public sphere through the disreputable path of P3s (public-private partnerships). By their very nature, P3s are the mothers of corruption.
First and most important, they operate in secrecy under the lame excuse that “proprietary” information possessed by the private enterprises must be safeguarded from the public. That violates the fundamental principle of government operations that they be transparent to the governed. Privacy law, let us not forget, is the last refuge of scoundrels.” (Also, it seems human rights commissions are becoming another. Witness zombie-talking oddball Barbara Hall’s extra-legal chastising of Maclean’s for not giving up pages of editorial space for a rebuttal of an article mentioning Islamists that could have been addressed in a 300-word letter to the editor.)
Secondly, unlike how governments are supposed to behave, private businesses do not purposely operate in the public interest. They are by nature and design, utterly selfish. That’s the entire principle of capitalism and it’s a valid one: If each business operates in its own best interests in a fair, competitive marketplace, the public should be well served and businesses would be blocked from committing harmful actions. It’s when businesses get involved in the public sphere that the public interest gets compromised. Their avatars—bullshit artists known as lobbyists—seek to pervert politicians and civil servants and thus benefit their business clients. They have zero financial interest in benefiting the public in any wise. If their clients are lying, cheating swine, it’s no skin off the lobbyists’ hides. Their reputations aren’t on the line if they’re promoting tripe. They can also on occasion represent worthy clients with something of genuine value to the city.
Still, the city would benefit from outlawing lobbying altogether and preserve us from such nightmares as Mayor Dumbo’s “street furniture” contract that gives a 20-year monopoly to a multinational billboard company to paste ads all over our city. And the various containers (“furniture”) for the ads are designed to white-bread all of Conglomerated Toronto so that Scarborough and Downtown are indistinct save for concentrations of poverty and Big Box stores.
So what if the city possibly might make a few pennies from the advertising that enriches the big monopoly corporation. That’s not a business the city should be in. Advertising is certainly a private-sector enterprise that government has no business entering. The private sector should remain private. Let government, which is ultimately responsible to the voters, operate the public sphere.