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Over 150 people attended a presentation on Friday night, to learn more about recent City Council decisions that could lead to privatization of city water treatment.

In November, the Mayor and eight Councilors voted “to explore” setting up “a new arm’s length business model to operate city owned utilities.” They also approved using a business (a public private partnership) method to “design, construct, finance and operate” water and waste control centres.

Tony Clarke of the Polaris Institute and co-author of Blue Gold (with Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians) spoke about situations around the world where water corporations have taken over water treatment and distribution systems, to disastrous effect. “It’s time for citizens to become custodians of their water – if we don’t we are going to be facing a huge water crisis in the future.”

Lynne Fernandez of the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives (Manitoba) provided background on the City Council decisions and what these could mean for Winnipeggers. She noted that though the Council is saying it is only exploring different delivery options, they have already changed to a more business-like approach for dealing with public water needs.

In the audience was a cross section of the public. Questions focused on how P3s could function and what citizens could do to stop the slide towards privatization.

A coalition of community, student, faith, environment and union groups are criticizing the City’s actions. They are calling on City Council to consult the public on such serious issues and to be more transparent with all P3 projects the city is planning for public infrastructure. The event was sponsored by:  CUPE Manitoba, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Federation of Students, Manitoba EcoNetwork, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Winnipeg Citizens’ Coalition, Council of Canadians, Winnipeg Labour Council and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 500.

Note www.cupe500.mb.ca for more information on the Local’s Positively Public campaign.