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NEWS: Winnipeg to sell water, sewer services to neighbouring municipalities

The Winnipeg Sun reports, “People who live just outside Winnipeg’s borders may soon be able to hook into city sewer and water services, for a price. Winnipeg city council approved basic terms Wednesday for future service sharing agreements with neighbouring rural municipalities, which will soon be able to buy water and sewer services from the city, rather than creating their own or having residents use well water, septic tanks and other individualized systems. …In the end, councillors voted 11-5 to approve the terms. …The first such agreement will occur with the RM of West St. Paul; that deal is already nearly complete.”

In April 2011, the City of Winnipeg signed a 30-year public-private partnership (P3) with Veolia, a transnational water corporation. That deal involves four to fifteen Veolia staffpeople working at any given time over the next 30 years to help design, build, manage and obtain materials for sewage-treatment plants that will remain owned by the city and operated by city staff. It is not clear at this time how Winnipeg’s ‘service sharing agreements’ to sell water and sewer services to neighbouring municipalities is connected to this P3 agreement.

Last week, the Winnipeg Free Press reported, “Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (a vocal opponent of the P3 agreement with Veolia) said she and other councillors are concerned elected officials will not be able to scrutinize (the service sharing agreements) and guarantee they are good for Winnipeg.” She was objecting to the “new policy that gives Winnipeg CAO Phil Sheegl authority to negotiate and finalize water and sewer negotiations with any interested municipalities.”

Metro Winnipeg reports, “Mayor Sam Katz said the deal could bring in an additional 30 per cent in yearly revenue for the city. But Coun. John Orlikow (says) ‘There is no projection (for the number of hook-ups),’ he said. ‘No estimate on the volume of water and sewer treatment (coming in and out of the city from the municipalities). No benchmarks to evaluate (the success or failure of the proposal).’ Orlikow also questioned the legality of the city selling water to surrounding municipalities.”

Today’s Winnipeg Sun article adds, “Among those who spoke against the deal was Coun. Leon Mandamin of Iskatewizaagegan First Nation, located on the shores of Ontario’s Shoal Lake. Winnipeg draws its drinking water from the lake via an aquaduct, and although the city has a compensation agreement with another band on Shoal Lake, it does not have an agreement with Iskatewizaagegan. Mandamin said it’s ironic the city is now talking about selling its water without an agreement with some people who live at the source.”

This past September, the Winnipeg Free Press reported, “The Iskatewizaagegan No. 39 Independent First Nation in Ontario asked Winnipeg not to sell its drinking water because “the city has no right to sell the water to third parties and must also resolve decades worth of claims over ‘unilaterally appropriated’ lake water.” In 2010, Iskatewizaagegan Chief Eli Mandamin said, “Every year millions of gallons (of water) are removed from our territory…which we have never given our permission to use. The City of Winnipeg continues to enjoy clean, safe water that is taken from our watershed and for which we have never received fair compensation.” More on that at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=10313.