Gee, Maybe Contracting Out Does work

When Mayor Rob Ford succeeded in contracting out garbage pick-up in the western half of Toronto to Green For Life (“GFL”), a private garbage company,  he said that GFL could do the work more efficiently, and critically for taxpayers, less expensively (to the tune of $11 million per year), than city workers.  Needless to say, Toronto-area lefties were having none of that. 

A fairly typical example of this was this observation by cityslikr over at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke :

Personally, I just don’t see how, as Peter Kuitenbrouwer reported in the National Post, 23 fewer trucks and 92 fewer collectors can deliver the same level of service. You really have to have that union hate deep in your DNA to believe such a thing is feasible. To truly imagine the public sector is that inefficient and the private sector that magical.

And, sure enough, when GFL ran into teething troubles earlier this month, the lefties were all over it.  Predictably, the local CUPE local started a website criticizing GFL’s performance and encouraging citizens to complain (although it doesn’t look like it’s been updated for weeks).  Linda McQuaig, in her usual fact free style, claimed that any savings would be minimal.  And Olivia Chow, the Dowager Empress of the Canadian left, famously tweeted, at 9:00 am in the morning (?!?), that her mother’s day had been ruined, because her garbage hadn’t been picked up yet.

Yet, here we are, 4 weeks later, and according to Jim Harnum, the general manager of solid waste management for the City of Toronto, things are going smoothly:  “We’re at a point now where we can see this contractor will be sustainable.”   Sure, according to the city, some of GFL’s trucks are sometimes still late finishing their routes, but as Mr. Harnum points, that happens with city workers too.   Needless to say, it’s still early.  GFL’s contract runs for another 7 years, so it remains to be see whether it can maintain its performance. Still, the early results are promising.  

Maybe proponents of privatization aren’t motivated by “union hate deep in [their] DNA”, or magical thinking about the private sector.  Could it be that public sector monopolies (like their private sector equivalents, I note) can be inefficient?   Is it possible that if people are properly incentivized 9in the case of GFL, by financial penalties for non-performance and the risk of termination of their contract), they can find a better way to do things? Maybe, sometimes, the private sector is more efficient than the public sector.  Pace cityslikr, perhaps if opponents of privatization didn’t have that private sector hate deep in their DNA they could believe such a thing is feasible.

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