HamiltonAfter a ten-year experiment with private water system operation that has been fraught with corporate instability, raw sewage spills, and the loss of public control, Hamilton council must bring all operations and maintenance of the water and wastewater systems back into direct municipal delivery, said Sid Ryan the Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in a CUPE deputation to the Hamilton Public Works Infrastructure and Environment Standing Committee.
In a presentation that highlighted the pitfalls of privatizing water and wastewater operation and delivery, CUPE also emphasized that large private water corporations are clearly prepared to break contract provisions, particularly when they are not making a profit.
I understand that those who are pushing the contract model versus a municipal model are stressing that better contract provisions will guarantee the interests of the municipality and the people of Hamilton are protected.
But, there is no guarantee that tweaking contract clauses will make private companies fully accountable. Hamiltons own experience demonstrates precisely that private companies can walk away from contracts, as Philip did with recycling when they couldnt make a profit, or they can go bankrupt, even when theyre as big as Enron, said Ryan, who was joined by CUPE 5167 president Gus Oliveira.
Municipal delivery, added Ryan, is the best way to ensure the health and safety of the people of Hamilton and the long-term environmental health of the citys water supply. Public health and safety has to be the paramount consideration for delivery of water and treatment of wastewater. Private corporations have profit, not public good, as their primary objective.
Hamiltons water system has become both famous and infamous across Canada. It is the first large water system in Canada to be contracted out to a private operator. Only 6 per cent of Ontario municipalities contract out their water systems. Even in the U.S., the private sector only operates 10 per cent of water services.
Under the original contract, all potential risk in providing service, and all capital expenditures and major maintenance were incurred by the city. That risk included the substantial cost of cleaning up a major raw sewage spill from the facility into the basements of Hamilton residents and into the harbour.
For information, please contact:
Sid Ryan, President, CUPE Ontario – (416) 209-0066
Gus Oliveira, President, CUPE 5167 – (905) 517-4105
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications – (905) 578-8774