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Concerned citizens and workers from the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) in British Columbia have urged the newly elected town council to keep wastewater treatment public.

In a brief presented on behalf of CUPE Local 2010 (municipal workers), CUPE raised serious concerns about Whistler’s decision to enter into a multi-decade public-private partnership (P3) contract to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant.

With a new council, there is an opportunity to cancel the privatization initiative. “We are concerned about possible cost and tax increases associated with P3s, about a lack of openness and accountability and inadequate access to information,” CUPE Local 2010 President Pete Davidson said.

CUPE’s presentation noted that the RMOW has won national awards for its public sewage treatment and questioned the quality of information given to the previous council around P3 cost savings.

CUPE also provided information about several P3 projects in British Columbia that are experiencing substantial cost increases, including the RAV rapid transit line in Vancouver, the Bennett Bridge in the Okanagan and the Sea to Sky highway, leading to Whistler, the main site of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Members of the Council of Canadians were also at the meeting. The group fears that once wastewater treatment is opened up to private delivery, it will have serious implications not only for Whistler, but also across the country.

Under NAFTA and international trade law, this is a slippery slope that will result in us losing control of all water, including our drinking water,” Carleen Pickard, the council’s B.C./Yukon regional organizer, said.