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Barlow to challenge proposed public-private partnership wastewater plant in Portage la Prairie

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba on November 29 to oppose a public-private partnership.

In September, a Canadian Union of Public Employees media release noted, “With a price tag of more than $110 million, the upgrade to the city’s water pollution control facility has been in the works for a decade. A report on the city council meeting agenda [on Sept. 12] is expected to recommend moving forward with a controversial funding model, called a public-private partnership. Terry Thompson, who represents city workers, including those working at the wastewater treatment plant, says, ‘The union was identified as a major stakeholder in this project, yet we were not consulted for this report.'”

The outreach for the upcoming public forum notes:


This fall, City Council voted unanimously to build and run the Portage wastewater treatment plant and plant upgrade using a for-profit model (public-private partnership or P3) for the next 30 years.

Attend this Town Hall Meeting if you want to know more about the impact of inserting the profit motive into our public water system.

Our water is too important NOT to ask the important questions!

If you care about our public water, join Portage La Prairie Water Watch on November 29, 7-9 pm at the MNP Exhibition Hall (Island Park, Portage La Prairie) for an important Town Hall Meeting to get to the bottom of the City’s Wastewater P3 project. What will it cost the City to go with a public-private partnership? Who benefits? What are the risks? Hear from Portage City Council, as well as local, regional and international speakers.”

Barlow has stated, “If the right to water is to be honoured, it is crucial to keep municipal water services in public hands and to maintain their status as a public service.”

In her new book Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse, and Canada’s Water Crisis, Barlow writes, “Unlike many parts of the world, Canada has largely maintained water services in the public interest and its imperative to protect this commitment to water as an essential public service. The privatization of water services has been tried in many countries and discredited. Multiple studies show that private water utilities cut workers and services, skirt pollution rules and raise water rates.”

The Council of Canadians has opposed plans for public-private partnerships in Abbotsford (for a water source and treatment system), Saint John (for its drinking water treatment plant), Regina (for a wastewater treatment plant), Sechelt (for a sewage treatment plant), and in other communities.

In November 2014, Justin Trudeau addressed the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships and stated, “The government needs you to help in identifying new and more innovative mechanisms to finance and build public infrastructure. …Private capital will obviously be important because it will enhance – and complement –increased federal investments. Together, we can seize this opportunity to embark upon a new kind of nation building.”

Now the federal government has announced its intention to establish an “infrastructure bank” next year that would seek capital from global investment funds, encourage foreign ownership, and promote public-private partnerships for major infrastructure projects. A CUPE media release has noted, “The finance minister’s plan for a Canadian Infrastructure Bank is a recipe for the cannibalization and privatization of Canada’s public infrastructure for profit by private institutional investors.”

Barlow highlights, “Around the world, municipalities are rejecting privatization.”

The report – Here to stay: Water remunicipalisation as a global trend published by the Public Services International Research Unit, Multinationals Observatory and the Transnational Institute – notes, “The false promises of water privatisation that have led to remunicipalisation include: poor performance of private companies (e.g. in Dar es Salaam, Accra, Maputo), under-investment (e.g. Berlin, Buenos Aires), disputes over operational costs and price increases (e.g. Almaty, Maputo, Indianapolis), soaring water bills (e.g. Berlin, Kuala Lumpur), difficulties in monitoring private operators (e.g. Atlanta), lack of financial transparency (e.g. Grenoble, Paris, Berlin), workforce cuts and poor service quality (e.g. Atlanta, Indianapolis).”

Barlow cautions, “Had the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) or its American equivalent the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) been in place when European remunicipalizations occurred, they would have all been challengeable.”

Public infrastructure must be publicly owned and operated in order to function in the public interest.