Over 60 Sooke, B.C., residents attended “Keep it local, keep it public”, a community screening of a new documentary entitled Water Makes Money that chronicles Europe’s disastrous experiment with water and wastewater privatization at the hands of large corporations as well as the wave of re-municipalisation taking place as communities fight to keep control of these vital public resources.
The event was organized by Sooke Water Watch, a coalition of residents that formed to oppose a 21-year contract with Edmonton-based Epcor to privatize Sooke wastewater services.
Vancouver Island District Council Vice President Amber Leonard moderated the event which included three guest speakers: Sooke resident and local-first advocate Don Brown, mayoral candidate Wendel Milne and Victoria Water Watch activist Michelle Coburn.
“Many residents were shocked to see how the corporate take-over of water and wastewater systems seen in the movie mirrored the process Epcor has been undertaking in Sooke to secure the long-term privatization of the community’s wastewater system,” says CUPE BC GVP Trevor Davies was also in attendance at the lively event.
The mood was joyful as the attendees celebrated the announcement that community groups fighting against Sooke Council’s attempt to sign the 21-year franchise agreement for its sewer system had surpassed the signature threshold required to defeat the Alternative Approval Process far before the June 27 deadline. This means the District of Sooke must now either seek other alternatives, including public operation, or bring the proposed Epcor-deal to a referendum in November.
There was a vibrant discussion before and after the screening as people reviewed the various arguments in favour of privatization put forward by the District of Sooke to residents, in light of what they had just seen in the film.
Moderator and host Amber Leonard noted how thought-provoking and beneficial the film was in presenting the real-life experiences of European communities as told by the mayors and councilors themselves, the very people who were left to “clean up the mess” of disastrous experiences with water and wastewater system privatization.
Sooke Water Watch handed out material calling for an objective evaluation of the option of operating Sooke’s wastewater system publicly. They also dispute the District of Sooke’s argument that Sooke is too small or unable to operate its own wastewater system by putting forward how successfully other small municipalities in B.C.– such as Parksville, Dawson Creek, Prince Rupert, Lake Country and Summerland – operate their quality water and wastewater systems publicly with their own highly-trained water and wastewater staff.
Local press were in attendance, including Eric Nordal, from the newly launched www.SocailCoast.org an online community forum for activists.