Skip to content

Edmonton chapter & CUPE challenge Epcor takeover bid of drainage services

Edmonton City Hall

The Council of Canadians Edmonton chapter and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are raising concerns about Epcor wanting to run the City of Edmonton’s drainage services as a business.

Epcor is seeking 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. A CUPE fact sheet highlights, “Epcor Water Services continues to promote privatized water and wastewater systems in Alberta and British Columbia.”

Metro News reports, “When it comes to transferring city-owned and operated drainage to city-owned Epcor, Edmonton city council isn’t yet ready to say yes or no. Indeed, in a 7-6 vote Tuesday, council decided to ask its administration to examine concerns of transparency involving Epcor’s potential take-over of drainage operations, before it makes a final decision.”

The article then highlights, “The decision came after 10 Edmontonians — representing unions and environmental groups, among others — voiced concerns over the possible transfer.”

Significantly, it notes, “CUPE president Mike Scott — who represents city drainage employees — called the drainage transfer a ‘ticking time bomb’. Scott is worried the transfer will lead to higher utility rates, as Epcor needs a revenue increase of 22 per cent following 2021. ‘Rate payers can therefore expect a significant increase in year six [of the takeover]’, Scott said.”

Chapter activist Robert Wilde tells us, “There were three of us from the Edmonton chapter – Rod Olstad, Sheryl McCumsey and I – who, with seven other persons, voiced our concerns about a proposed transfer of city drainage assets to Epcor. Rod stated that water issues are one of the enduring concerns of our organization, Sheryl produced evidence that Canada doesn’t have water standards for health, only guidelines, and I added my voice to all those (the other seven) who expressed concerns about accountability and City Council’s ability to oversee Epcor’s activities.”

In terms of yesterday’s 7-6 vote to, Wilde says, “Sometimes all you can do is show up; and you never know if that could be just enough to tip the scales.”

City Council will debate the issue again on April 11.

Further reading
Epcor seeks to buy Edmonton’s wastewater and stormwater collection services (June 10, 2016)