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CUPE attends the World Water Congress and Exhibition to promote public water services

The International Water Association (IWA) World Water Congress and Exhibition 2010 took place in Montreal from September 19 - 24. As the only labour representative at the congress, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) was an important voice advocating for public services, the right to water and affordable access, and the need for increased public investment in water infrastructure.

The IWA is a network of individuals and corporate water professionals from around the globe and the World Water Congress takes place every two years. This year, event partners in Canada included the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) and the Canadian Association on Water Quality (CAWQ).

CUPE’s presence was particularly important given the privatization agenda dominating the IWA program.

Keynote speakers included Pedro Pablo Errazuriz who is the Chairman of the companies Essbio, Esval, Saesa and Frontel in Chile. At the event, he said, ”My aim is to shed light on the experience in Chile and the benefits of having a private operator.”

Another keynote speaker, Arjun Thapan who is Special Senior Advisor, Infrastructure and Water for the Asian Development Bank in the Philippines, stated in his address that, “Water services have to be treated as a business - a corporate outlook is essential.”

It should be noted that the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan is a major investor in Essbio, a private, for-profit water utility in Chile.

CUPE participated in the Global Water Operator Partnership Alliance (GWOPA) dialogue session sponsored by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the Canadian Wastewater Association (CWWA), which was organized by the Greater Moncton Sewage Commission. This was an important opportunity for CUPE to voice our support for public-public partnerships in Canada and around the world.

CUPE joined the Council of Canadians demonstration outside the World Water Congress where a banner was unfurled with the message “Public Water Is A Human Right”. Members of CUPE Local 429, City of Montreal workers, joined the Council to voice their opposition to the event’s corporate agenda.

CUPE’s message at the World Water Congress was clear; we are all better off with publicly owned, managed and operated water services. Governments, not corporations, must oversee our water resources and must not trade, sell or export it.