A P3 water plan was overwhelmingly rejected in Abbotsford and the former mayor, George Peary, an outspoken P3 supporter was also defeated. The $291 million project would have been the largest privately financed undertaking in the water sector in Canada to date.
The Stave Lake referendum question was included on Saturday’s municipal election ballot and 74 per cent of residents voted against the P3 plan.
The City of Abbotsford’s $200,000 campaign and 13 member P3 team couldn’t convince Abbotsford residents that the P3 plan was the best option for a new water source.
Bruce Banman, Abbotsford’s new mayor, said that he plans to “look at the other 19 options and have some open, honest discussions.” Banman says he will also investigate why no federal funding is available for public water infrastructure.
“It’s alarming that the federal government would take our tax dollars and try and use them as an incentive to force communities to privatize vital services,” says CUPE Privatization Coordinator Diane Kalen-Sukra. “The residents of Abbotsford have resoundingly rejected this federal privatization agenda by voting ‘no’ and turning down a $65 million grant so long as it has P3 strings attached.”
Public Private Partnerships Canada currently has two dozen more water and wastewater applications under review.
Water Watch Mission-Abbotsford (WWMA) spokesperson Lynn Perrin says that WWMA “couldn’t be happier with the outcome of this referendum vote.” Dedicated WWMA volunteers spent months getting the ‘vote no’ message out, sharing the pitfalls of the privatization of water services with their community.
“The community has spoken and sent an important message- Abbotsford will not support a P3,” says Perrin. “We have elected a new mayor who vows to listen to residents, look at other options and keep water in public hands. This is a huge win.”
WWMA is a broad based coalition of community members concerned with the future of water in the region and committed to keeping this vital resource public. The group has over 1,000 supporters and is also supported by CUPE and the Council of Canadians.