Members of Council will be asked whether to tell private contractors bidding for the contract to build and operate four wastewater treatment plants what it would cost the municipality to do the job itself.
To release the public bid now would make a sham of the tendering process, says Danny Cavanagh, representing the Canadian Union of Public Employees. The only way you can trust a bidding process is if each bid is confidential until theyre all released. You dont show your hand before the other side has folded.
In March Council decided to invite bids from three private consortia for the $315 million project to treat the wastewater entering Halifax Harbour. But many members of Council remain convinced it would be much cheaper for the municipality to operate the plants itself. So they asked that a shadow bid be prepared that would show the cost of a public solution to the Harbour cleanup.
Now municipal staff is recommending this information be given to the private developers as they prepare their bids. A Council committee set up to review the matter is split with those who want to privatize the plants supporting early disclosure and those supporting public delivery opposed.
If you tell the private developers your cost before they prepare their bids, you can be sure theyll undercut you, says Cavanagh. But you can also be sure that youll be paying millions extra for years to come for hidden costs and things they overlooked to lowball their bid.
Were convinced that a public option is better, safer and cheaper because weve studied the track record of these multinational corporations across Canada and around the world, says Cavanagh. But if youre going to ask the private sector to bid at least you have to ensure the process is fair. Theyve already stacked the deck against the public option by hiring a private consultant that favours privatization to prepare the public bid.
CUPE has been working with a local Water Watch committee to promote public ownership and operation of the Halifax Harbour cleanup in order to protect public health, control costs and improve the environment.
For further information:
Danny Cavanagh at (o) 455-4180 (h) 895-2352
Larry Power at (o) 454-6369 (h) 864-7304