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WIN! Winnipeg rules out private ownership of new water-sewer utility

The Winnipeg Free Press reports that, “The City of Winnipeg has trashed the most controversial aspect of its plan to create a new water, sewer and garbage utility – the possibility a private engineering firm could own part of a subsidiary of the new arm’s-length corporation.”

“Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz now says there will be no such partner and a private engineering firm will not own any aspect of the new utility.”

Veolia, Black & Veatch and CH2M Hill had been  shortlisted by the city to be a ‘strategic partner’ and own up to 49 per cent of the new corporation.

Instead, it appears now that the plan is for a private company to be only involved in the design and build aspects of the upgrade. That said, the company will reportedly share an office with city staff to facilitate communication and avoid cost overruns.

“The city and province are still trying to work out the legislation required to create the utility, spokeswomen for both levels of government say. The legislation is expected soon…”

The Council of Canadians has argued against Winnipeg city council’s decision to dissolve its water and waste department and create a new agency (with significant corporate ownership) that would assume responsibility for water treatment, sewage treatment and garbage and recycling pickup.

The decision not to have a corporate ‘partner’ in the ownership of this municipal corporate utility should be seen as a major win.

We do continue to have concerns, however, about the dismantling of the public governance structure. By this we mean the utility may still be run by an unelected board of directors with limited input from elected officials.

It may be though that the expected provincial legislation needed for the creation of the utility could address this.

This issue may arise again during the municipal election in Winnipeg which takes place on October 27, 2010.

An early blog on this issue can be read at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=928.

For audio, video, updates, facts, letters, and more blogs on this issue, go to ‘Winnipeg’s water utility’ at http://canadians.org/water/index.html.

The Winnipeg Free Press article is at http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/city-rules-out-private-water-sewer-partner-92945889.html.