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In mid-July, the City of Toronto contracted out the operation of its biosolids pelletizer to Veolia Water Canada. Biosolids, a byproduct of sewage treatment, can be a pot of gold. And, as CUPE 416 President Brian Cochrane points out in this recent letter to the Toronto Star, the city has let the revenue from this treated sewage sludge slip through its fingers. Here’s what he wrote:

Beware those who call for the city to solve its budget problems by contracting out or privatizing services. The decision to hand over operation of the biosolids pelletizer at the Ashbridge’s Bay treatment plant to Veolia Water Canada Inc. shows just how foolish an option that is.

Despite the city’s own projections that its employees could do the work more economically than a private operator can, council decided to give away a steady revenue stream. The third-largest multinational water-waste company in the world, not Torontonians, will be turning our “poop into profit” - and we’ll be paying them to do it.

The pelletizer decision comes from the same philosophical approach as the decision some years ago to hand over a steady, sustainable revenue stream from methane production at the former Keele Valley dump to a private company. The motivation comes from a philosophy that sees private, profit-making business as the solution to all our problems, even though the facts tell a different story.

Mayor David Miller is right about the source of our city’s problems: downloading from upper levels of government. Provincially mandated programs take up the largest single share of the city budget. Anyone who thinks there is fat to trim in Toronto should look at the statistics. The number of staff involved in administration and delivery of direct municipal services has actually decreased in the last eight years.