City Council opts to keep drainage public
EDMONTON – By a seven to six margin, Edmonton City Council voted against a plan that would have seen the city’s sewer and drainage system given over to EPCOR, a city owned corporation with an exclusive mandate to generate profit.
CUPE 30, which represents employees at the City and EPCOR, fought the proposal, saying public assets should be operated by the city, where public service would come before profit.
“Public services don’t always make money, but they are still valuable,” said CUPE 30 President Alex Grimaldi. “Putting drainage in EPCOR would have been a recipe for higher fees and a lower level of service.”
EPCOR said it wanted control over drainage to make itself more attractive to towns and cities thinking of privatizing their own drainage and water systems.
Over the past two days, council heard from over 30 individuals, almost all opposed to the transfer.
The council decision followed a dramatic series of votes, which included a compromise proposal and a reconsideration vote. The compromise motion, proposed by Councillor Dave Thiele, would have kept drainage separate while allowing the department to work much more closely with EPCOR water. At first, the vote seemed to have passed by a margin of 7-6, but moments after the motion was declared passed, Councillor Kim Krushell declared that she had pressed the wrong button, voting in favour when she wanted to vote against. A second vote killed the compromise by the same 7-6 margin.
But Krushell and others changed their votes on the main motion to transfer the asset. Saying there simply wasn’t enough evidence to support a move that was irreversible, Krushell declared she would vote against the motion. She joined councillors Phair, Melnychuk, Thiele, Nickel, Leibovici, and Sloan to kill the proposal 7-6.
Grimaldi was ecstatic, but cautioned that the battle is not over.
“In the end, council put the public interest first,” said Grimaldi. “Edmonton has no business giving up control of 45% of its assets just so EPCOR can privatize more water systems across Canada.”
“(EPCOR CEO) Lowry told the media ‘we’ll be back,’ and I don’t doubt they will,” said Grimaldi.
“But CUPE will be back too. In fact – we don’t intend to leave.”