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NEWS: Abbotsford public opinion split on P3 water facility

Maude Barlow and Paul Moist speaking against the Abbotsford P3, Oct. 12

The Abbotsford Times reports, “The plan to establish a $300-million (public-private partnership) water source and treatment centre at Stave Lake by 2016 is the primary issue in the upcoming civic election. …The plan involves the city entering into a 25-or 30-year contract with a private business to (design), build, partially finance and operate the new water facility. …The city has stated that although a private company would operate the facility, Abbotsford would maintain ownership and control over the facility and water quality.”

“In a recent telephone survey of registered voters commissioned by the city, respondents were split as to whether they would vote in favour of the project. Forty-five per cent of those questioned would vote for the plan while 30 per cent said they were opposed.”

“Critics of the plan, such as Water Watch Mission-Abbotsford and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), argue P3 projects often end up costing taxpayers more than projected and argue the move privatizes water.” The Abbostford News recently reported, “Perrin doesn’t agree with the city’s claim that a new water system has to be ready by 2016. She points to a 2009 report presented to the Abbotsford-Mission Water and Sewer Commission, stating the current water supply is sufficient – as long as conservation measures take place – until 2031. …She said there is plenty of time to consider other options, including future federal funding possibilities that do not involve P3.”

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow spoke against the P3 water facility on October 12 when she was in Abbotsford at a public forum with CUPE president Paul Moist and Perrin on the Canada-European Union free trade agreement.

Today’s news says, “The city has been waiting on a possible announcement from Public-Private Partnerships (P3) Canada after making funding application for up to 25 per cent of the Stave Lake project. … (Now) Abbotsford MP Ed Fast is expected to make an announcement Friday morning that the federal government will provide $61 million dollars in funding to the city’s proposed P3 Stave Lake water project. An announcement was posted on the federal Ministry of Finance website on Thursday stating Fast will speak to a joint infrastructure project between Abbotsford and PPP Canada on Friday at 10 am PT. …The city has stated that if Abbotsford doesn’t get the federal funding, the project would be nixed.”

The Abbotsford News reported yesterday, “While all of the council incumbents, with the exception of Coun. Patricia Ross, support a public-private partnership to establish a new water source for Abbotsford, challengers reached on Thursday had a varied stance. Opposed to the plan are candidates Anne Graham, William Aird Flavelle, Daljit Singh Sidhu, Terry Stobbart, Lynn Perrin, Vince Dimanno and Moe Gidda. In favour is Doris Woodman-McMillan, while Henry Braun, Mark Rushton, Jati Sidhu and Kevin Chapman remain undecided.”

“The four candidates opposing incumbent George Peary in Abbotsford’s mayoral election are unanimous in opposing the proposed Stave Lake P3 water plan. … (But) Bruce Banman said he is not against a P3 partnership, but would favour a design/build plan, with operation of the water system remaining in private control. …Meghann Coughlan feels it is dangerous to have water in private control. She said when water prices and customer service are being considered, corporate shareholders should not be an issue. …Gerda Peachey said a P3 deal is not publicly transparent, because of a corporation’s privacy rights. She said the city should design, build and operate the water system itself, taking advantage of low borrowing rates offered through the Municipal Finance Authority.”

“The public will vote on the project during a referendum on Nov. 19.”