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VICTORIA – Speaking to a full house at St. Ann’s Academy in Victoria, Maude Barlow brought a global perspective to the local campaign for public sewage treatment. It was an energizing evening that started with the Raging Grannies and included a wonderful performance by Vancouver-based singer/songwriter Wyckham Porteous. The event was sponsored by the Council of Canadians, the Greater Victoria Water Watch Coalition and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Barlow, who is chairperson of the Council of Canadians and whose extensive experience includes having served as a senior advisor on water to the president of the United Nations General Assembly, talked about her international experience with privatization experiments. “Privatization does not work for people or for healthy communities, and it won’t work for sewage treatment in the Capital Regional District,” said Barlow.

Here in Greater Victoria, there is a wonderful opportunity to bring in environmentally sound and publicly operated sewage treatment. Experience from across the globe, on every continent and right here in Canada, is that when public-private partnerships or P3s are put under an independent critical microscope, they do not deliver in terms of value for money, quality services or risk transfer.”

Barlow noted that last January, respected forensic accountants Ron Parks and Rosanne Terhart published a damning report on P3s in B.C., finding that they cost more than publicly operated projects and that the process used to assess projects is biased in favour of privatization.

Kim Manton, CUPE’s campaign coordinator for public sewage treatment, says that Barlow’s visit and insights come at a critical time in the Capital Regional District. “CRD politicians will make the final decision on how sewage treatment will be financed and operated in the next few months. Maude gave them some very good reasons to listen to CRD residents and go public.”

Manton said that from the beginning the sewage project has been caught in the cross hairs of the B.C. government’s privatization agenda. “But despite pressure from provincial and federal governments, it is local councils and the CRD board who will make the final decision. And the taxpayers of the region, not the federal and provincial governments, who will foot the operating bill over the long-term,” said Manton.

Barlow encouraged the audience, which included a group of students from the Lester B. Pearson international college sporting “poo poo on pee three” buttons, to get active. “Talk to local councilors and CRD board members about the need for publicly operated sewage treatment, and demand to have your voices heard as part of the decision-making process. You are in the final months of a process that will have a lasting and profound effect on your communities and your environment. Now is the time to speak out loudly for public sewage treatment.”