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A new poll on the long awaited Halifax Harbour cleanup shows residents divided on privatization, but believe public system would be safer and more cost-effective.

The survey (see PDF file), conducted by the polling firm Ipsos-Reid, is the latest barometer of public opinion on the Halifax Regional Municipalitys plans to build four new wastewater treatment plants. The city now says it will make a decision on whether or not to privatize the operation within the next two months.

HRM council is currently awaiting the technical evaluations of bids from two private companies who want to design, build and operate the plants.

The poll also reveals a contradiction of sorts that may reflect residents high degree of frustration over how long it has taken to get the cleanup underway. While the public is clear that privatization has negative consequences, they may feel any solution is better than none at all. When asked whether they support or oppose privatization of wastewater services they are divided on the issue. One-half (49%) of residents say they support it, with 19% of that group strongly supporting it. Four in ten (40%) report they are opposed to the privatization of wastewater services, with 24% of that group strongly opposing it.

Here are some other highlights of the Ipsos-Reid poll on the Halifax Harbour cleanup:

  • Twice as many residents (59%) say they put more trust in the Halifax Regional Municipality to provide safe wastewater treatment in Halifax as those that say they put more trust in a private company (30%).One-half (49%) of residents report they put more trust in the Halifax Regional Municipality to provide the most cost-effective wastewater treatment, compared to 45% who say they put more trust in a private company to do so.Seven in ten (71%) agree with the statement, “Whenever the Halifax Regional Municipality privatizes services, it ends up costing taxpayers more than predicted,” with four in ten (41%) agreeing strongly.
  • Three-quarters (75%) of residents agree that, “water and wastewater treatment are basic public services and should always remain in public hands.”
  • Just under three-quarters (73%) agree with the statement, “A private company operating the plants would be less accountable to me as a taxpayer than the Halifax Regional Municipality would be.”
  • Eight in ten (79%) residents agree that, “If the Halifax Regional Municipality does not want to operate the wastewater plants directly, they should hand over the responsibility to the Halifax Regional Water Commission.”

The poll was commissioned by CUPE and involved 400 interviews with Halifax residents aged 18 and older between July 30th and August 8th, 2001. A sample of this size is accurate to within plus-or-minus 4.9%.

Halifax Harbour Poll