CUPE Water Watch campaigns are taking on water privatization at both ends of the country and several places in between.
In Kamloops, support continues to grow for CUPE 900s campaign against the privatization of a planned new drinking water treatment facility. In early April, the local set up a booth at the Kamloops home show. Over three days, 1,500 people signed a petition to keep the citys water public.
Recent developments in Cochrane have helped take the wind out of Kamloops city officials sails. The Alberta town had originally handed control of their new water plant to Epcor, the Edmonton public water utility. Many worried this set a
dangerous precedent of commercialization of public services. After a year of the management contract, the town decided to run the plant themselves.
The town administrator told the media Were dealing with a brand new car. We should be able to drive it. The administrator also had some advice for Kamloops city council: Make sure you look at the full meal deal. Its hard to get it back. Epcor is lobbying Kamloops city council to favour a public private partnership.
In Vancouver, work continues to halt plans to privatize the new Seymour water filtration plant. CUPE BC has called on the Greater Vancouver Regional District to reject the P3 proposal. A CUPE poll found that 91 per cent of people living in the region were unaware of the privatization attempts and, when informed, two-thirds were opposed. In another boost to the campaign, Burnaby, Vancouver and West Vancouver city councils have unanimously passed motions calling for a freeze on the project until after full public consultations.
Vancouver will become even more of a hotbed of opposition to water privatization this summer, thanks to an upcoming conference organized by the Council of Canadians. CUPE will play a key role in a two-day workshop on water privatization at the conference.
At the other end of the country, in Halifax, the bidding process for the citys harbour cleanup is ensnared in a legal battle, further delaying the long-awaited sewage treatment plants. Two multinational consortia are vying for the 40-year contract and have forced the city to turn to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia for clear direction. Earlier this year both consortia were handed extensions to fix bids that didnt make the grade. A CUPE-led push forced the city to prepare a shadow bid. Given the never-ending corporate wrangling and confusion, it seems clear Public Works! best for Halifax water.
CUPE is also mobilizing in Moncton, New Brunswick, where the corporate owners of the drinking water system are angling to get their hands on the citys water pipes. Here CUPE 51, representing the citys outside municipal workers, is joining forces with area locals to build public opposition to the unsolicited bid. The May municipal elections provided an ideal opportunity to launch a fight for public water.
Winnipeg water watchers are celebrating the success of their recent Water Watch conference, which drew more than 100 experts and activists. The conference focused on the safety of Manitobas drinking water and the state of Canadas freshwater supplies. In an address to delegates, Manitoba Premier Gary Doer announced his government is reversing the privatization of provincial water well testing. He also expressed his strong opposition to the resurrection of a Newfoundland proposal to allow the sale of bulk water from Gisborne Lake, pledging he would continue to call for NAFTA to be amended to ban water exports.
In Newfoundland, CUPEs tackling the same issue. National President Judy Darcy has joined the provincial division in requesting a meeting with Premier Roger Grimes. Reopening the door to allow bulk exports of water puts all Canadian water at risk, said Darcy. It exposes us all to multinational control of our fresh water supply.
CUPE is also active in the Walkerton inquiry, participating in hearings to examine the effect of government policies on the causes of the tragedy. And the unions also playing a role in the aftermath of the deaths in North Battleford, pressing for action to improve municipal water systems and assure all Canadians access to safe, clean water.
For more information about Water Watch and how your local can get involved, visit our web site today.