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NEWS: Saint John considers P3 water system at special meeting on Feb. 21

CBC reports, “Saint John council is holding a special public meeting (on February 21) to discuss how a public-private partnership could be arranged to pay for a new ($220 million) water treatment system. Saint John Mayor Mel Norton said he plans to put a ‘full-court press’ on drinking water (so that the city can break) ground by the end of this year on a new water treatment system.”

“The city will have to funnel any federal funding application through P3 Canada, a Crown corporation. That process could lead to a model where a private sector group designs, builds, finances, operates and maintains the city’s water treatment system.”

“Saint John needs to assemble a complicated business case and get it approved by council in early April. …For that to happen, the city must hold a series of, at least, four special meetings. The first meeting is Feb. 21, when experts from Pricewaterhouse Coopers Canada will review the public-private partnership process with councillors.”

The Council of Canadians Saint John chapter and Common Causes will be holding a teach-in on this issue on Monday February 25.

Efforts to push back a P3 water system in Saint John have been ongoing for the past five years.

In June 2008, Saint John City Council rejected a proposal for a public-private partnership for its water system. At that time, CBC reported, “Mayor Ivan Court, who campaigned against the idea of privatizing the utility, has been vocal in his opposition to sharing control of the city’s water supply. A company owning the city’s water source for the next 40 or 50 years would be a terrible choice, the mayor said. Court said previously that what is needed to solve the city’s water problems is a joint effort between council members to try to fix the system.”

In October 2009, the Telegraph-Journal reported, “The Council of Canadians is calling on the city to adopt water policies that oppose the private sector’s involvement in the treatment and distribution of the precious resource. …It wants Saint John to ban the sale of bottled water in municipal buildings and fund a new water treatment system with public, and not private, money. …Water campaigner Meera Karunananthan said P3s are simply forms of privatization, arguing Saint John should not allow private companies to finance, own or operate water or wastewater services.”

In May 2012, a CUPE media release noted during the last municipal election there, “A poll conducted by Continuum Research for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, found that 62 per cent of Saint John voters oppose a private, for-profit corporation delivering the city’s drinking water treatment services. That feeling is held intensely, with 45 per cent of voters strongly opposed. …Support for the P3 is very weak, with only 23 per cent of voters in favour – just nine per cent strongly.”

The CBC report is at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/story/2013/02/19/nb-saint-john-water-norton-811.html. The CUPE poll is at http://cupe.ca/privatization-watch-2012/saint-john-voters-reject-corporate. The 2008 article is at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/story/2008/06/10/nb-saint-john-water.html. The October 2009 campaign blog ‘Council of Canadians opposes P3 in Saint John’ is at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=1882.