The City of Abbotsford has a new mayor who is taking a new, public approach to meeting the city and region’s future water needs.
Abbotsford resident’s recently rejected the Stave Lake P3 water project by an overwhelming 75 per cent. In turn they also turned down a $65 million grant from the federal government, sending a clear message that this community will not accept federal money with P3 strings attached.
Abbotsford’s new Mayor, Bruce Banman, will now join the growing number of B.C. municipalities and individuals calling on the federal government to offer money for public infrastructure.
This past fall B.C.’s municipal leaders voted, overwhelmingly, in favour of a “Blue Communities” resolution at their annual convention. The resolution asks for the federal government to provide funding for public water infrastructure and delivery projects and “unhook” funding for water infrastructure and maintenance projects from P3s.
Abbotsford’s neighbour, Mission, recently sent a letter to the prime minister requesting that “funding be made available for non-P3 water infrastructure projects to the same degree as P3 infrastructure projects.”
Banman thinks that Mission’s letter to the prime minister is “a heck of a great idea … It is the citizens of Canada’s money to begin with, we paid into it. The federal government decided to put strings attached to this particular money, I guess they could decide to remove the strings if they wished.”
In 2009 the federal government created an infrastructure fund called PPP Canada in order to push P3s (public-private partnerships) as “the way of the future” for infrastructure delivery. The $1.2 billion fund has not been very popular having been used only a handful of times since its inception. However, it is now rumoured that there are over two dozen applications for P3 water projects across Canada from municipalities desperate for funds to upgrade or expand their water systems.
Today, Stephen Harper’s government is telling municipalities that there is no federal funding available for public infrastructure because the ‘public’ Building Canada Fund, which was supposed to last through to 2014, has dried up.
“There is no reason why the federal government can’t unlink available funds from the P3 requirement and apply them to public infrastructure projects,” said CUPE BC’s Anti-Privatization Coordinator Diane Kalen-Sukra. “It’s a question of political will.”
Kalen-Sukra adds that “by telling municipalities that it’s P3 or the highway, Harper is essentially using our own tax payer dollars to impose a federal privatization agenda on communities. This overrides local decision-making and paves the way for large multinational corporations, in particular, to turn vast monopolistic profits from the delivery of vital services such as water and wastewater to Canadians.”
CUPE BC’s Water Watch is encouraging all concerned citizens to join the petition to Prime Minister Harper and Finance Minister Flaherty urging them to cut P3 strings from federal infrastructure funding for communities.