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The Council of Canadians & Blue Planet Project call on the OTPP to support public management of water in Chile

Retired teacher Roy Brady helps those attending the OTPP annual general meeting understand what it means to lose access to water.

Council of Canadians Peterborough-Kawarthas chapter activist Roy Brady called on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) at their annual general meeting in Toronto yesterday afternoon to commit to a strategy to divest from private, for-profit water and sanitation services in Chile.

The OTPP administers the pensions for 178,000 public school teachers, principals and school administrators, and pays pensions to 117,000 retirees.

In 2007, the OTPP began investing through its Chilean Unit, Inversiones OTPPB Chile II Limitada, in Chilean water and sanitation services. In 2011, it increased its shares and is now the majority shareholder in three major Chilean utilities making it the largest investor in Chilean private water and sanitation services.

The intervention at yesterday’s annual general meeting was co-organized by The Council of Canadians and the Blue Planet Project.

Brady, a retired teacher, says, “Ontario teachers have a long history of protecting public services in Canada. That should extend to water services in Chile too. Does the OTPP expect different standards for Chileans?”

Meera Karunananthan, the director of the Blue Planet Project, adds, “There is growing evidence that private water and sanitation services fail communities. Around the world, we have seen for-profit water corporations raise tariffs, cut off poor households and cut corners when it comes to environmental and public health measures. The situation in Chile is no different.”

Currently, two of the OTPP-owned companies – ESSBIO and ESVAL – are under investigation for mass shut-offs that left hundreds of thousands without water. ESVAL is also under investigation for providing water that did not meet safety standards to more than 30 million people. Local farmers are also challenging ESVAL arguing the company is accessing more than its share of water during periods of drought. And the third OTPP-owned company – Aguas de Valle – is facing a class action lawsuit for a series of illegal actions infringing on the human rights to water and sanitation including unscheduled cut offs, billing irregularities, poor water quality and failure to comply with compensatory measures.

Teachers in Ontario are encouraged to send an email to Ron Mock, the President & CEO of the OTPP, to call on him “to engage Chilean utilities in a transition to public management and ownership of water and sanitation services.” To do so, please go to this online action alert.

To read more about the situation, click here.

The Council of Canadians first began opposing the OTPP’s investments in Chilean for-profit water utilities in 2010.