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Keeping services public is best for communities: The public has spoken.

The results of the Nanos/CUPE poll on municipal services confirm that CUPE’s fight for public services is the right one. The push for all levels of government to protect the public services Canadians value in public hands is ramping up.

Municipal governments facing pressure from the Harper government to privatize public services should be bolstered by the results of this poll.


Since the federal budget allocated $25 million on a P3s promotions office and another $1.25 billion to a fund to subsidize up to 25 per cent of the cost of “innovative” P3 projects, municipalities have to prove they are at least ‘considering’ P3 options that would sell off the operation and oversight of public services to corporations.

Today’s poll results tell a compelling story about the strength of public services, and why municipalities should protect them.

CUPE has long been on the front lines to enhance and protect municipal services, not only on behalf of our 120,000 members who help deliver them, but in the interest of the communities across Canada that value them.

Four CUPE success stories

Public services inspire shared innovation.

Modernizing Water Systems – Kamloops

Across the country, increasing numbers of municipal water operators face privatization. The Kamloops Centre has become a symbol of the fight to keep water services public. When a privatization scheme for the facility first came to light, CUPE members led a successful fight to make it public. The Centre – opened in 2005 – is the largest operating water treatment facility in North America to use membrane treatment – a more efficient alternative to the commonly-used sand-and-stone water cleaning method. The membrane system allows for maximum use of the facility’s water. For example, some of the water is recycled to use for a neighbouring playing field and a rooftop garden, which creates another source of heat for the building. The Centre, which has won a Gold LEEDS award for environmental quality, is the only facility of its kind in B.C. and one of only three in Canada. Through a public-public partnership with Thompson Rivers University, the Centre provides water certification training.

Public services save communities money.

Hard lessons about why recreation should remain a public matter – Ottawa

Two city ice rinks were built through public-private partnership schemes in 2004, hailed as examples of how municipalities could do more with less. But on April 20, 2007, Ottawa city management recommended a $1.2 million bail-out for Capital Sports Group, the corporation that runs Bell Sensplex. City management also recommended the termination of the partnership with Serco Facilities Management, operators of Ray Friel Centre, leaving the City with an additional $12 million debt. The businesses underperformed in several areas, including mismanagement, leaving too few options for the City.

Public services protect vulnerable communities.

Forging healthy relationships, smartly – Penticton

On May 20, 2008, Penticton City Council and the Penticton Indian Band Council signed the Sewage Treatment Service Agreement – an historic agreement of environmental, social and economic significance for both communities. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Mayor Jake Kimberley both acknowledged the deal as a critical step towards strengthening collaborative relationships of this nature. The Band and City have been working on the 25-year agreement since 2004 – it will provide sanitary sewage treatment for Band lands on the west side of the Okanagan River Channel. The City will recover all operating expenses, including overhead, plus a profit of 10%, and will “front end” the cost of up-sizing three pumps, establishing the connection points and other expenditures – these will be recovered from the Penticton Indian Band either in lump sum payments or in payments plus interest amortized over a 20-year period. The agreement will benefit the environment and help diversify the area’s economy, especially for industrial purposes.

Public services keep everyone accountable – and safe.

A botched privatization deal had previously threatened to put Haligonians on the hook for millions when the corporation involved refused to assume responsibility for meeting related environmental standards. But as of November 2007, the new sewage treatment plant in Halifax was finally up and running. The City’s ‘Harbour Solutions’ project came close to being privatized to one of the world’s largest water multinationals, Suez. CUPE and allied groups waged an important challenge to ensure the harbour cleanup was a public venture – AND WON. That accountability is best ensured through municipal oversight and delivery was a key argument for going public. Public stewardship of the environment favours sound social policy over shareholder profits. Halifax City council eventually tore up its deal with the Suez-led consortium. The entire municipality has recognized how privatization would have been the wrong choice for the region’s harbour clean-up. After the deal was cancelled, Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly told the media that keeping the project in municipal hands will save taxpayers million of dollars.

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