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Winnipeggers battle city proposal to privatize water system

The Globe and Mail reports today that Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz “is endorsing a plan to split off the Water and Waste Department from the city and place it in an arm’s-length corporation, much like some provincial Crown corporations, but with a major catch: The new utility would be a partnership between the city and a private-sector company. The company would share the risk of construction financing and overruns. But that risk could come with a huge reward – the potential bonanza of expanding the utility to serve thirsty markets beyond city limits. Even before the business plan has passed, 15 companies have applied for consideration.”

Maude Barlow, national chair for the Council of Canadians, says, “It may seem like a small decision – should the City of Winnipeg allow a public-private utility model – but it’s part of a larger question that’s being fought on the ground all over the world.”

The article notes, “Some 90 per cent of the country’s water systems lie in municipal hands, and (opponents) fear conversion of Winnipeg to a private-sector partnership could set off a cascading effect across the country. Such a trend could create a continental market for water services.”

Barlow adds, “Who gets water and who doesn’t would be determined by the market. It would become just another commodity like electricity, running shoes or Coca-Cola.”

City councillor Jenny Gerbasi, who will submit a motion to delay the water vote (scheduled for this Wednesday) until the fall, says “The focus seems to be solely on the money to be made from the sale of these services to exurban communities.”

To find out more about this issue, please go to our campaign blog ‘AUDIO: Council of Canadians on Winnipeg’s water plans’ at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=928.

To take action, go to our ‘ACTION ALERT: Defer decision on commercialization of Winnipeg’s water utility’ at http://canadians.org/action/2009/09-July-09.html.

The full article from page A3 of today’s newspaper can be read at http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/winnipeggers-battle-city-proposal-to-privatize-water-system/article1224306/?service=mobile.