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Briefing document on waste disposal in Prince Edward Island

This brief is the response of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) to the document entitled Prince Edward Island Department of Fisheries & Environment, P.E.I. Waste Watch Management Project, Request for Proposals for the Development, Design, Construction, Financing, Operation and Maintenance of a Privately Owned Waste Management Utility to Implement the Prince Edward Island Waste Management Strategy and dated July 15, 1998. CUPE represents more than 2,000 workers in Prince Edward Island and more than 450,000 across Canada. This proposal will affect our members working in the Municipal sector in the City of Charlottetown and Summerside, but will also affect our members who are citizens and taxpayers in the province.

The Prince Edward Island new waste watch management project has many implications for the population of Prince Edward Island. Although the project objectives talk about achieving the full implementation of Waste Watch by December 31, 1999, this part of the project that deals with protecting the Island environment and reducing waste, is certainly a positive initiative.

The rest of the objectives are dealing with the privatization of waste management in the province. The project three main components : the development, design, construction, and financing of a new solid waste management site; the operation, management and maintenance of waste management facilities; and the collection of residential refuse, will all be in the hands of a single private company. In the document dated July 15, 1998, there is no explanation of why the approach of privatization has been chosen by the Prince Edward Island government. This is very interesting because in the document entitled Prince Edward Island Waste Management Strategy, published on April 22, 1997; it was stated on page 3 that “Expansion of the Waste Watch Program will be implemented by the Prince Edward Island Waste Management Commission. The existing East Prince Waste Management Commission will be phased out to enable one Commission to manage and operate a waste collection, processing / disposal operation for the entire province. The Waste Watch Program will expand to other regions of the Province in a phased approach over the next three years. This will enhance the viability of the recycling industry in the province.” Nowhere in the document entitled Prince Edward Island Waste Management Strategy is there any mention of privatization. Why this sudden change in policy?

There are many reasons why privatization of public utilities is not a good deal for the public. The first area is public control and accountability. While this company would still be regulated by the Island legislation, by the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC), and by the Prince Edward Island Waste Management Commission, the proponent company will not be directly accountable to the citizens of Prince Edward Island. They don’t have to run for elections and the public cannot look at their private books. A study on privatization concluded that “Like the mergers and acquisitions issue, privatization involves the displacement of one set of managers entrusted by the shareholders - the citizens - with another set of managers who may answer to a very different set of shareholders.”1This decision is difficult to understand, particularly when you look at the experience of th