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Edmonton chapter calls on City Council to reject proposed privatization of municipal drainage services

The Council of Canadians Edmonton chapter will be at City Hall tomorrow morning to keep watch on their City Council’s debate on EPCOR’s bid to run the City’s drainage services as a business.

EPCOR wants to take over the drainage services currently publicly-owned and operated by the City of Edmonton. Among other assets, the proposed purchase would give the company 6,000 kilometres of storm, sanitary and combined drainage pipes and 240 stormwater ponds and management facilities.

EPCOR is a for-profit municipal corporate utility (MCU), a city-owned business that operates as a private corporate entity without public reporting requirements.

Chapter activist Rod Olstad highlights, “Communities such as Banff (AB), Taber (AB), White Rock (BC) and Port Hardy (BC) have all cancelled their water services contracts with EPCOR due to considerable public opposition to EPCOR’s business practices. The municipality of White Rock, upon ending their water services contract with EPCOR discovered high levels of arsenic and manganese levels in their water which were not disclosed during EPCOR’s watch.”

He adds, “We of the Edmonton Chapter of the Council of Canadians value and promote a publicly owned and operated water infrastructure. We regard water as a commons, a public trust. It is important that citizens be informed about this important issue and challenge the assumptions behind City Hall’s decision-making process. Three of our members presented at City Council’s public hearing on EPCOR/Drainage last January 24th. Since then we’ve collectively read and discussed numerous reports and articles. We’ve also met with one City Councillor and communicated with a former City Councillor.”

Olstad concludes, “Let’s keep what’s left of our municipal water services in public hands.  Indeed, let’s consider taking a page out of other Canadian municipalities who have successfully remunicipalized their critical utilities.”

In addition, CBC now reports, “EPCOR’s proposal to take over the city’s drainage utility just doesn’t hold water, according to a report released Monday. The report, commissioned and paid for by the Edmonton and District Labour Council and the Coalition of Edmonton Civic Unions, says the city must consider efficiency claims by EPCOR as well as how transparent and accountable EPCOR would be as owner of the drainage utility. EPCOR has claimed it can run drainage more cost-effectively than the city and those savings will be passed onto the city in the form of increased dividends. But the report says the city could achieve a substantial portion of the efficiencies itself.”

City Council is expected to make their decision on April 12.

For the contact information to send an e-mail to Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and City Council before April 12 to express your opposition to EPCOR taking over the City’s drainage services, please click here.