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Public-Private Partnerships in Alberta, Canada: Towards the Institutionalization of Policy Reform

PAQ, Vol. 44 No. 4, 578-611 (2020)

The deployment of public-private partnerships (P3s) in Alberta, Canada has stalled following the suspension of the program in 2016. While P3s have become increasingly popular, the dynamics of P3 institutionalization remain unclear and overlooked. In response to Casady et al.’s (2018) call, this study aims to investigate the nature and extent of P3 institutionalization using Alberta’s program as an effective longitudinal case study. This study finds that Alberta’s P3 program, facing the pressures of limited funding availability and a previously failed partnership attempt, was initiated as an experimental effort designed to fill a serious infrastructure gap and motivated by existential political interests, but without the necessary institutional and organizational anchors to ensure program stability, permanency and continuity. Furthermore, Alberta’s P3 program has become the object of ideological contestation between recent successive governments. Following Johnson et al. (2006), this study contends that Alberta’s P3 program has stalled at the “diffusion stage” and unable to transition to the “general validation stage” needed for its widespread acceptance as an institutionalized model of infrastructure delivery.

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