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NEWS: Winnipeg election today has Veolia as key issue

Winnipeg goes to the ballot box today. The mayoral race there is between incumbent Sam Katz (who supports the city’s deal with the private water company Veolia) and Judy Wasylycia-Leis (who has been a vocal opponent of it).

The Winnipeg Sun reported yesterday that, “It’s unlikely any election has ever featured more use of the word “Veolia” than Winnipeg’s 2010 race. Wasylycia-Leis has been constantly hammering on what she considers the company’s ‘secret’ wastewater deal with the city and holds it up as the prime example of ‘a culture of secrecy at city hall.’ Katz has consistently said the contract is no different from others in that many details need to remain out of public view to protect the company’s proprietary information.”

This past Friday, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that, “Opponents of Winnipeg’s waste-water-treatment deal with Veolia Canada were ecstatic Thursday night after more than 24,000 voters took part in a conference call about the city’s contract with the environmental consulting firm. The Winnipeg Citizens Coalition, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Winnipeg Water Watch and the Council of Canadians enlisted Toronto’s Strategic Communications to set up (the) virtual town hall…”

Global Winnipeg reported late last week that, “A new Ipsos Reid / Global News poll finds that Katz has the support of 59% of decided voters – a 20 point lead over Wasylycia-Leis, who has the support of 39% of decided voters. …These results are among decided voters and exclude the 22% of Winnipeg residents who are undecided or express no preference. …The good news for Wasylycia-Leis is that her voters are more committed to go the polls and vote on Election Day. Among those who say they are ‘absolutely certain’ to vote, Katz’s lead drops to 9 points (54% Katz vs. 45% Wasylycia-Leis).”

The Winnipeg Free Press reported last week that, “Katz enjoys the support of 38 per cent of Winnipeg voters while Wasylycia-Leis has 32 per cent, according to a Leger Marketing telephone survey commissioned by the Winnipeg Free Press and CBC News. …A Probe/Free Press poll conducted in September placed Katz and Wasylycia-Leis in a statistical dead heat.”

The Winnipeg Free Press reported in May that, “The City of Winnipeg has chosen Veolia Canada over two other engineering firms to help conduct $661 million worth of upgrades to the city’s sewage-treatment plants. The city is poised to enter into a 30-year deal with the Canadian wing of Veolia, a multi-national consulting firm based in France. The deal will see five to 15 Veolia staffers help design upgrades at the sewage treatment plants and assist the city’s maintenance efforts. The private firm will not own any facilities and unionized city staff will continue to operate them, said Bryan Gray, one of the creators of the city’s new utility.” Veolia Water (formerly Vivendi Water, originally Generale des Eaux), is the water division of the French corporate giant Veolia Environnement, the world’s largest supplier of water services operating in about 64 metropolitan areas. The article notes that, “The city has abandoned a plan to allow a private firm to own part of a subsidiary in the new utility. Instead, the deal with Veolia…will see the company assume responsibility for a percentage of any cost overruns and also some of the savings that may flow from more efficient plant operations.”