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Privatization plan for region’s water services full of holes, says O’Neill

NANAIMO, BC. — The Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) will be up the creek without a paddle if it adopts a proposed public-private partnership with the Edmonton-based firm Epcor for water services in the area, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) BC president Barry O’Neill will tell the RDN’s board of directors tomorrow.

O’Neill, scheduled to appear with CUPE National researcher Blair Redlin at the board’s regular meeting, will cite research from across Canada to discredit the P3 approach and instead propose that water services be kept entirely under the RDN’s control.

Given how often privatized water systems have failed across Canada and been rejected by B.C. communities, it’s amazing that proposals to privatize water systems still come forward,” says CUPE’s BC division president, who is also a resident of Lantzville.

The CUPE presentation comes on the heels of a Parksville Qualicum News report that the RDN is negotiating with Epcor to turn over operation and maintenance of the Breakwater system near French Creek for a term lasting at least 21 years. As well, plans are in place to hand over operation of the rest of the RDN water system to Epcor for a period of up to five years with a view to then signing a long-term service agreement of 20-plus years for Epcor to run the entire regional system.

Before taking a step down this very dangerous road,” says O’Neill, “the Regional District should take a close look at the experience of so many other Canadian communities with privatized operation of public water systems.”

The CUPE presentation will refer to the city of Hamilton, which returned water services to the public sector after a disastrous raw sewage spill in Lake Ontario under the private contractor. It will also cite examples of B.C. communities whose residents, faced with privatization of their water services, have raised their voices in opposition.

It would be nice if Regional District residents actually had a say in this,” adds O’Neill. “But there’s been no public discussion. No open bidding or tendering process. Just secret negotiations with a multi-billion dollar company from outside B.C. about that company taking over operation of the whole regional water system for the next few decades.”

The RDN board meeting takes place tomorrow (Tuesday, August 23) at 7pm, in the Regional District Office at 6300 Hammond Bay Road in Nanaimo.

For more information, contact:

Dan Gawthrop
Communications representative
(604) 291-1940

Rodger Oakley
president of CUPE Local 401
(250) 729-7557