QUEEN’S PARK, Ont. — According to Mike Harris, Ontario came out a winner when it dealt Hwy. 407 despite suggestions the government handed fat profits over to the companies that bought the toll road.
“The taxpayers of this province did very well with this sale,” insists Harris. He points out the government built the route for $1.5-billion and sold it just a handful of years later for a profit of $1.6-billion.
But critics say taxpayers and drivers are starting to look like the losers in the deal as tolls continue to rise and financial statements suggest the new owners are reaping massive rewards.
An Australian investment bank, Macquarie Infrastructure Group, produced an analysis of the highway in September when it bought part of the Spanish company that owns a majority stake in the road. The bank paid four times the highway’s original equity price — the amount of the purchase price that the buyers paid in cash — putting a value of $6.3-billion on the project, which the province sold for $3.1-billion.
That doesn’t mean the province was shortchanged, maintains Harris, only that the road has been improved. Motorists could end up paying for the highway several times over, said
David Leonhardt, a spokesman for the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Automobile Association, because it’s expected to become Canada’s fastest-growing commuter route over the next 20 years.
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