CUPE members in several provinces will be gearing up to elect their bosses in autumn municipal elections. But nowhere is the race so keen – or the risk so high – as Halifax.
Council will soon decide whether four new wastewater plants intended to clean up Halifax Harbour will be privately owned and operated. If one of the big multinationals that’s bidding on the $315 million project wins the contract, we’ll soon see a new push for private water from St. John’s to Victoria.
Municipal workers and community allies in Halifax, members of the local Water Watch committee, are mobilizing to defeat the promoters of private water and elect councillors who’ll support publicly owned and operated treatment facilities.
“The experience with water and wastewater privatization in Canada and around the world has been a disaster,” says Danny Cavanagh, a water worker with CUPE 734 who’s working with the local Water Watch committee. “It’s time Council wrested control of this project from staff and did the right thing.”
The Halifax project has been tainted from the outset, with the deck stacked against municipal delivery by managers who support privatization. But an important victory was won over the summer when Council agreed to keep confidential the cost of public sector delivery.
Staff had wanted to give this information to the privateers to help them prepare their bids. But an intense lobby by CUPE won the day.
“We’re calling on Council to make a decision that’s in the best interests of taxpayers, public health and the environment,” says Cavanagh.
“We’re going to be dogging members of Council right up to the elections. But that’s nothing compared to what will happen if these plants go private, because the fallout from that decision will haunt councillors for years.”