The mood was decidedly public Monday night at Abbotsford City Council. The last regular meeting before the November 19 municipal elections and P3 referendum heard three presentations – all opposed to the city’s P3 plan to privatize drinking water delivery.
Much of the criticism centred on the lack of a city water conservation program.
Elizabeth Gray, who has lived all her 72 years in Abbotsford, spoke to Council because she is “a very concerned citizen.” Gray made several detailed suggestions on how Abbotsford could cut water consumption, pointing to cities like Calgary and Los Angeles where water reduction programs have been very successful.
Gray pointed to the public money the city has spent on selling its Stave Lake Public Private Partnership deal, saying “Just imagine what could and would have been if the City had spent $200,000 on promoting conservation and studies to show us the way. We would be here tonight celebrating how much we accomplished, how great each person would feel, having done their best effort to decrease their water usage and being part of the solution.”
Gray said residents “are being faced with scare tactics like claims of loss of fire protection, loss of livestock, crops failing, etc. from the mayor and council if we don’t vote YES for a P3. Please don’t insult us by saying you are doing this for our children and grandchildren. If this P3 goes ahead, they are the ones who will pay for this fiasco for a long, long time.”
Abbotsford businessman Steve Thind picked up the fear mongering charge in his presentation, saying “the city has stated time and time again that we will run out of water by 2016 and that if we want to have enough water beyond 2016, vote ‘Yes’ on Nov. 19.”
“I am feeling coerced into putting a check mark in favour of P3. This is duress! The city is bullying, intimidating and coercing the citizens of Abbotsford into signing a 30-year agreement with an unknown multinational corporation. With all due respect, we are not little children, we are not about to be bullied. We have combined force much more powerful than any multinational company in the world. We have the power of our voice - we have the power of our pen that will mark ‘No’ to P3.”
Sukhi Dhami targeted city claims that there is an impending water shortage and brought the comments back to conservation. Dhami told council “For those who don’t know the real meaning of P3 it’s simple, it stands for “Profit, Profit, Profit”. Some folks don’t have a problem with a private corporation building and designing this infrastructure, but the private operation is what local citizens should not accept.”
“This council claims there is no way to save water. When was the last time the city of Abbotsford launched a proper campaign to conserve our water? Simple things such as providing rebates for low flush toilets and new efficient shower heads would help reduce water usage. If you can reduce water usage, you also save the energy required to pump it and produce it,” Dhami said.
“I would like to share a quote by Guru Nanak that air is our teacher, water our father, and the great earth our mother. That’s how valuable our water is - please don’t sell our father for profit.”