Concerned Regina citizens gathered for a town hall meeting yesterday to talk about a growing threat to the city’s public municipal infrastructure. Paul Moist, national president of CUPE was joined by Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, for a discussion about a proposed public-private partnership slated for Regina. Regina city council recently voted to issue a request for proposals for a P3 waste water treatment plant.
“There is no such thing as a water system in this world that is expendable, and the only way to protect them is to keep them in the public trust,” said Barlow, opening the discussion with the capacity crowd at the Artesian community centre. “As governments lose control to private corporations, more and more around the world decisions on water are not being made by governments.”
Barlow highlighted some of the international experiences with privatized water systems, many resulting in high profits for shareholders, and skyrocketing rates for citizens.
“We want to say, and we will say no, because we value our water,” concluded Barlow. “It is the most important thing we can do now is to keep it in public hands, and say no to these private corporations.”
Paul Moist continued the discussion with an outline of the infrastructure challenges facing Regina and municipalities across Canada.
“Regina is being forced into this P3 in order to access federal funding. Where I’m from, that is not acceptable,” said Moist, pointing out many on the Regina council supported the P3 because it was the only way to access $58 million in federal infrastructure funding, and they did so with little substantive public consultation. “This is about an absence of public debate. That’s not democracy.”
Moist stressed the importance of waste water treatment to the public health, and rejected claims by some in the city that the P3 was acceptable as long as it didn’t effect drinking water. He also urged the crowd not to back down from these types of arguments, or the proponents of P3s and privatizing public services.
“There is a ton of money to be made in the public sector, and we’re playing with some big players. And if this goes through, a huge chunk of the rates you pay are going to be leaving Regina,” said Moist. “ This debate isn’t over. Now is the time for you to speak up.”
For a critical look at the case for and against P3s for municipal infrastructure, read CUPE’s “Asking the right questions: A guide for Municipalities considering P3s”