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AUDIO: Council of Canadians on Winnipeg’s water plans

CJOB Radio in Winnipeg reports that, “City Council is preparing to vote on introducing an independent, city-owned utility to manage water and waste services. Meera Karunananthan, Water Campaigner for Council of Canadians, is afraid the city is going to take a public resource and manage it under a ‘for-profit’ business model. Karunananthan says the city is rushing this deal through. She wants them to slow down and consult Winnipeggers before making this decision.”

To listen to Meera on CJOB, please go to

For suggesting that a public consultation is needed, the Council of Canadians was attacked on the editorial pages of today’s Winnipeg Free Press. Columnist Dan Lett writes, “In the world of government and public policy, there are many ways you can attack a proposal, but the most disingenuous way is to criticize the process. For those who do not have the smarts or the patience to understand complex concepts, the easy way out is to dwell on the pace of the implementation, the lack or quality of consultation, or the quantity of advance research. …The Canadian Union of Public Employees has raised alarms about potential job losses and a loss of transparency and accountability. The Council of Canadians has suggested Mayor Sam Katz is on a secret mission to privatize and sell off Winnipeg’s water supply.”

That column is at

The Winnipeg Sun reported on November 19, 2008 that, “Winnipeg has taken a first step toward putting its water and sewage services under a new corporate utility. City council voted 10-4 this afternoon to have bureaucrats officially begin exploring the feasibility of establishing an arm’s-length utility for water and waste-water services, possibly with a private-sector partner to help manage sewage treatment facilities.”

That article is at

Lynne Fernandez of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives writes in ‘Public Values’ that, “Since passing the motion on November 16, 2008 to adopt the recommendations of a Deloitte report, the City of Winnipeg has made a bold move to dismantle our utilities’ public-governance structure.”

“According to Deloitte, there are three broad types of utility governance: public (what we have now), private and the new model being proposed which is a hybrid of the other two (a City-owned Municipal Corporate Utility).”

“The (Deloitte) report cites Edmonton’s EPCOR as an example of an MCU. The Parkland Institute’s Diana Gibson prepared an in-depth report on EPCOR and reports that now there is a singular lack of oversight by City Council, who cannot include EPCOR-run utilities in its broader city-planning objectives. Public transparency has been severely curtailed as EPCOR is not subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.”

“Deloitte claims that accountability for wastewater effluent quality could be improved ‘through the performance based contractual arrangement with the strategic partner’. The strategic partner refers to the private half of a public-private partnership.”

Yet, “The CCPA’s research into P3s shows that P3s often put wastewater treatment at risk. Cities such as Halifax, Hamilton and Atlanta Georgia had singularly unpleasant experiences with P3s.”

“We do not know which private-sector service provider will be chosen as the strategic partner, but it may be a multi-national corporation (Deloitte has already consulted with American Water, EPCOR Water Services, Suez Environmental and Veolia Water). Opening the door to a multi-national to deliver waste-water treatment brings us dangerously close to it accessing our water utility, in turn opening us up to attacks from Chapter 11 of NAFTA.”

“Neither the Council Minutes nor the Deloitte report explains why the move from the current public-governance model to an MCU is necessary. The existing model has and is serving Winnipeg very well and already accommodates P3 arrangements.”

“Deloitte does not explain why the current public-governance model is inadequate. In fact, they point out that there is ‘nothing to suggest that current regulatory requirements and services are not being met.'”

“Provision of water and waste-water services is of great importance and the City should not undertake major changes to the governance of these services without extensive public consultation.”

This article is at

A CBC report on this – with quotes from Meera – is at

Meera is also interviewed on CKUW at

ACTION ALERT: Defer decision on commercialization of Winnipeg’s water utility