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Hamilton Chapter polls mayoral candidates

The Hamilton Chapter of the Council of Canadians is calling on all mayoral candidates in Hamilton to support the three principles of the Blue Communities project:

1. A declaration that water is a human right.

2. Banning bottled water at municipal events and facilities.

3. Declaring that Council is committed to publicly owned and operated water and wastewater facilities and services.

Hamilton has a terrible history with water privatization. Voters going to the polls on October 27 should be able to vote for a mayor who recognizes water as a human right, who promotes publicly financed, owned and operated water and wastewater services, and who would ban the sale of bottled water in public facilities and at municipal events.

As the Canadian Union of Public Employees has noted, “the citizens of Hamilton, Ontario, suffered through one of Canada’s most infamous examples of the disastrous consequences of privatized water and sewer treatment. In 1994, the city awarded an untendered contract for its water and sewage treatment plants to Philips Utilities Management Corporation in return for promises of local economic development, new jobs and cost savings. What the community got instead was a workforce slashed in half within eighteen months, a spill of 180 million litres of raw sewage into the harbour, the flooding of 200 homes and businesses, and major additional costs. In the ten years that followed, the contract shifted four times — with two of the contractors now bankrupt and one of them a subsidiary of Enron! The P3 contract came up for renewal in 2004, with the city eventually opting to bring water and sewage treatment back into the public sector.” [

The Hamilton Spectator reported on April 24, 2006 that the publicly managed operation saved the city at least $1.2 million in its first contract year, compared to private operation. Despite that, by December 2011, a majority of city council attempted to pursue a public-private partnership contract with California-based Liberty Energy to build a new sludge management system for the city.

And just this year, public drinking water fountains were omitted from the new $145-million Tim Hortons Field stadium built under city supervision.

The mayor and council are responsible for protecting the environment and the interests of residents. Hamilton’s experience belies the myth of risk transfer and highlights the lack of accountability that is a feature of almost all P3s. Hamilton has learned the hard way that privatization is expensive and dangerous.

There are 12 candidates running to be mayor of the city, and the Hamilton Chapter of the Council of Canadians calls on all of these candidates to publicly support Hamilton becoming a Blue Community before election day.

For more about the blue communities initiative, please click here.