|Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on April 28, 2011 at 4:28 PM||comments (1)|
In light of City Hall's 30 year commitment to Veolia, the Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter is dedicated to remaining civically vigilant. The agreement overview provided by the City portrays a less objectionable deal than was previously contrived, but we must continue to hold the City and Veolia accountable to Winnipeggers for the claims of transparency, uncompromised service for Winnipeg citizens and the ability to meet environmental standards.
Eleven months after being approved in principle by City Hall, the City of Winnipeg has finally concluded its contract talks with the transnational firm Veolia to oversee the much needed and provincially mandated upgrades to two of the City's wastewater treatment plants.
North End Water Pollution Control Centre
South End Water Pollution Control Centre
For those of us who had laboured long, hard and valiantly against this arrangement, particularly during the last civic election when there had been some hope of holding councillors in favour of the deal accountable, this occasion is tinged with sadness. One of the world's most notorious water profiteers has secured a role in directing an important infrastructure project, which may well have consequences not only for efficient management of a vital local service, but for the world-wide battle for public control of water and waste services.
There is good news however. The summary document which was released last Wednesday (April 20, 2011), makes it reasonably clear that control of our wastewater services will remain in public hands. In fact the document was explicit about this. The France based firm will see its role restricted to consultation. Veolia has clearly convinced the city that their decades of experience and various innovations will supply the department with invaluable expertise which can be embraced or rejected at the discretion of the Director of Water and Waste.
The contract “permits the City to make unilateral decisions in certain areas without incurring financial penalty.” However, the contract also makes explicit the idea that Veolia would not be “unfairly penalized because of a City decision” presumably at variance with Veolia's assessment of how to meet target costs. In other words, if the city chose to reject a recommendation, say, to cut corners on parts or raise rates, decisions that could adversely affect stakeholders in the name of meeting the bottom line, the city would lose the ability to share their risk with the firm. Arguably, this could create an institutional incentive to embrace Veolia's “expertise” just to keep their “skin in the game” to borrow a quote from the Mayor.
The document talks about “incentives for meeting or exceeding quality targets on key performance areas...set by the City...” This means Veolia would get rewarded financially if there is service excellence in areas such as human health, safety, waste reduction and GHG mitigation among other areas. Like waving a carrot in front of a mule, Veolia will be motivated to work wonders with our city sewage treatment otherwise they won't get paid as much.
Given Veolia's track record this is not much of an insurance policy. Moreover, one should recall that Veolia is a huge company with operations in hundreds of communities in seventy countries around the world. Chances are they would be less adversely affected by a financial hit in one jurisdiction than, say, the City of Winnipeg would in the event of an accident.
The document seems to have been designed to mitigate the possibility of lawsuits. The Agreement contains an alternative dispute resolution provision. As an advisory body, Veolia teams up with City employees and arrives at a consensus before sending recommendations up to the City Manager. If a dispute should arise however, mediation and binding arbitration can be requested by Veolia.
According to the summary document, the City can back out of this thirty year arrangement without cause, or for convenience, if it is willing to pay Veolia a sum of $5 million. This is a substantial bargain compared to the more than $24 million the City of Indianapolis is on the hook for in their struggle to be free of the French firm.
Within the Council of Canadians, and some of our partners in Winnipeg Water Watch, there is a recognition that the deal announced last week is far superior to the “water privatization” that many of us saw on the horizon back in the spring of 2009. During her Earth Day speech in Winnipeg at the Fort Garry Hotel, Council of Canadians National Chairperson Maude Barlow made a special effort to highlight how the activism of the local chapter and other citizen groups in Winnipeg made a difference.
Maude Barlow in Winnipeg on Earth Day 2011
In this regard, the Winnipeg Chapter would like to thank all of our friends, both within the Water Watch alliance and as individuals, who worked with us to alert Council and the general public as to the significant hazards associated with these sorts of public-private partnerships.
We have taken a step back by introducing a profit motive into our public wastewater system. Cities around the world have fought for years to eventually end their contracts with Veolia. As Winnipeg will undoubtedly come to the same conclusion we remain steadfast in our determination.
Contributor: Michael Welch - Chair, Council of Canadians - Winnipeg Chapter
|Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on March 23, 2011 at 12:25 AM||comments (0)|
For Immediate Release
COUNCIL OF CANADIANS LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN "SHOW US THE DEAL" TO EDUCATE PUBLIC AND POLITICIANS ABOUT SECRET VEOLIA WASTEWATER DEAL
Winnipeg (MB) On Tuesday, March 22nd, World Water Day, Council of Canadians launches its "Show Us the Deal" Campaign with an online petition and by presenting a film screening of "Water Makes Money" - a documentary of numerous cities, including Paris, that have fought to regain their waste and water systems after negative experiences with Véolia.
Winnipeg City Council has voted to go ahead with a secret 30-year deal with the large multi-national corporation, Veolia. Meanwhile, Paris (the birthplace of Veolia) and cities throughout France are working to get rid of them and put the operation of their water systems back in the hands of the local government.
The Council of Canadians - Winnipeg Chapter is launching a "Show us the Deal Campaign" in which we will encourage City Council to show us the details that have been blocked in the face of multiple access to information requests including one filed by the Chapter itself. A petition will officially be unveiled on World Water Day at the screening of "Water Makes Money"
The film "Water Makes Money" casts light on some explosive new developments. It portrays what Paris and other French communities have learned from their deals with Veolia and company, and how they have finally managed to retake control of the water. Examples from Europe and America expand the film into a teaching example for the entire world! "Water Makes Money" will provide facts, details and encouragement for Winnipeggers in opposition to City Hall's secret 30-year deal with Veolia.
The film will be screened Tuesday (World Water Day) at the Ellice Cafe & Theatre at 7:00 pm. The Council of Canadians - Winnipeg Chapter invites everyone to come out, and strongly encourages the Mayor and Winnipeg City Council to view this enlightening film full of information highly relevant to Winnipeg's future.
Contact Michael Welch
Council of Canadians -Winnipeg Chapter Chair
phone: 204-330 1185
email: [email protected]
|Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on March 12, 2011 at 4:21 AM||comments (2)|
On the threshold of Israeli Apartheid Week 2011, please consider that the company Winnipeg City Hall endorses as the new mender of our crumbling wastewater system is also supporting illegal settlements in east Jerusalem. Another good reason not to deal with Veolia!
"Veolia, a large French multinational, is helping to build and operate a tramway linking illegal settlements in East Jerusalem with Israel. Not only do the settlements contravene article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention forbidding an occupier transferring its own civilians into the territory it occupies, but in most cases the establishment of the Israeli settlements involved war crimes too.
The tramway tightens Israel’s hold on occupied East Jerusalem, ties the settlements more firmly into Israel and undermines chances of a just peace for the Palestinian people.
Veolia also operates bus services for Israeli settlers, running them between the illegal settlements and Israel. The buses travel on settler roads, which have decimated Palestinian towns and villages by stealing their land for construction, and cut them off from each other. Palestinians were, until recently, forbidden from using these settler-only apartheid roads.
Through its subsidiary, TMM, Veolia also collects refuse from illegal settlements at the Tovlan landfill site in the occupied Jordan Valley."
...read more at Boycott Israeli Goods
|Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on February 1, 2011 at 8:40 PM||comments (1)|
The following is an except from the Council of Canadians, January 22, 2011, UPDATE: The story of Veolia in Brussels.
"Having won the contract in 2001 with a commitment to use a new non-combustion on-site sludge treatment technique, the wet air oxidation Athos process developed by Veolia, Aquiris started building the plant in June 2003 and completed it in 2007. The plant was given initial approval in 2007 by the Brussels region and officially started in March 2008, but there were technical problems, which stopped the Brussels authorities from giving final approval. Veolia’s Athos process proved less flexible to operate than expected.
Because of these unresolved problems, tensions grew between Aquiris and the public regional authority in charge of water and wastewater management, the Société Bruxelloise de Gestion des Eaux (SBGE). At the end of 2008, Aquiris asked the Brussels region for an extra € 40 million for complementary works, but SBGE refused to pay because this was not included in the contract. In May 2009, an SBGE inspection found that Aquiris was trying to build a new de-sanding installation (to remove sand from the wastewater) without permission, and the works were stopped. Aquiris complained that the wastewater quality was poorer than envisaged when they agreed the contract, because of the amount of sands and gravel, and that was why SBGE should pay an extra €40 millions to solve the problem. The SBGE denied there was any change in wastewater quality since the initial 2001 study and ordered a new audit of Brussels’ wastewater quality by French consultants Merlin.
Meanwhile, SBGE asked Acquiris in February 2009 whether the plant could at last become fully operational. But Aquiris said there were still problems with incoming wastewater quality. Press reports later found that Aquiris was beginning to lose lots of money, as it had to send 200 tons of sludge everyday by truck to Germany to fulfill its contractual requirements. Veolia Environnement tried to sell its shares in the consortium but couldn’t find a buyer. In late November 2009, Aquiris shut down one of the three main collectors, saying that heavy rains had further deteriorated the quality of the incoming wastewater. However, the Merlin study, published on December 8th, found there was no substantial difference in Brussels’ wastewater quality."
To view the entire article click here.
|Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on December 9, 2010 at 12:58 AM||comments (4)|
The city is currently in the process of drafting up its contract with Veolia. The most effective way to influence city council right now is to write letters. Your letter can be as short or as long as you like. Simply stating your opposition to this 30-year secret deal is effective if that is all you have time to do. Every letter counts!
Below you will find the email addresses of the mayor and city council as well as writing points and two sample letters. To copy and paste on a PC, highlight the text you desire, push CTRL + C at the same time and then to paste, push CTRL + V at the same time. To copy and paste on a MAC, highlight the text you desire, push APPLE + C at the same time and then to paste, push APPLE + V at the same time. On either computer you can also highlight the text, right click the mouse, choose 'copy' and then paste it into your document by right clicking again and choosing 'paste'.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email us. If would like a Water Watch speaker to come to your letter writing session, please let us know. [email protected]
Main Floor, Council Building
510 Main Street, Council Building
Emailed letters are just as valid as hand-written letters and leave an electronic footprint. Hand-written letters are impressive because they cannot be missed. If you would like to send your letter to everyone, but do not have time to write them all out, then simply send it by email.
Mayor Sam Katz [email protected]
Justin Swandel [email protected] (St. Norbert)
Devi Sharma [email protected] (Old Kildonan) - new councillor
Ross Eadie [email protected] (Mynarski ) -new councillor
Paula Havixbeck [email protected] (Charleswood-Tuxedo) - new councillor
Gord Steeves [email protected] (St. Vital)
Mike Pagtakhan [email protected] (Point Douglas)
Russ Wyatt [email protected] (Transcona)
Grant Nordman [email protected] (Charleswood)
Jeff Browaty [email protected] (North Kildonan)
Scott Fielding [email protected] (St. James-Brooklands)
Jenny Gerbasi [email protected] (Fort Rouge - East Fort Garry)
John Orlikow [email protected] River Heights-Fort Garry
Harvey Smith [email protected] (Daniel McIntyre)
Thomas Steen [email protected] (Elmwood-East Kildonan) - new councillor
Dan Vandal [email protected] (St. Boniface)
To email them all, copy and paste:
[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] , [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
Your letters can be addressed in the following way:
To : All Members of Council
Re: 30 Year Veolia Contract with the City of Winnipeg
If you would like to phone the councillors, their numbers can be found at
- There is very little public information on the Veolia contract - not even the councillors have seen the document. This is not democracy.
- We do not know the details of the contract and therefore what the relationship with Veolia will be or how much this will cost Winnipeggers.
- The deal with Veolia could be for 30 years and this could obligate the City in ways that could cost a great deal and limit the City's ability to secure the best professional services in waste water treatment.
- We will probably never know all of the details of a contract once it is signed because private companies can hide behind confidentiality requirements and legislation (even though the public's right to know should trump business confidentiality).
- We do not want a private company profiting from something as essential to our health as our waste water treatment and possibly our drinking water services. Clean drinking water is growing scarce in the world and once large companies get into government services, they can expand their control over these important resources.
- Veolia does not have a good public relations, environmental or cost efficiency track record.
- The deal with Veolia looks like a Public-Private Partnership, which means prices for services will likely go up and quality of service go down - a common occurence when a private (for profit) company becomes a partner in our wastewater system.
Sample letter A: to the Mayor and City Councillors
Dear Mayor Katz and City of Winnipeg Councillors:
I am extremely concerned with how the City is proposing to upgrade our wastewater treatment system. In particular, I think the proposed contract with Veolia Water is going to fail and leave citizens with greater problems and costs in the future.
While information is hard to obtain on the current status of the contract with Veolia, I am writing you now to reconsider the arrangement with Veolia, for the following reasons:
- The control of our treatment system must remain in public hands. Our wastewater treatment system needs to be the best possible, with technologies and professional expertise that ensures the health of our community and water bodies. The technology to remove excess nutrients and pollutants before the effluent is returned to the river will be improving over time and we want to have the flexibility to upgrade without being tied into a 30 year contract with a company that may not be able to deliver on all our needs.
- Public-private partnerships do not deliver quality public services and the often cost more than publicly delivered services. The arrangement with Veolia looks like a PPP and there is no justification for it. While a long term contract for the design, build and operation of a treatment facility may look good for the short term, it is not in the best interest of tax payers and all citizens.
- Contracts that involve huge public expenditures and long term relations should be transparent. The secrecy surrounding the Veolia contract is alarming. Other cities that have entered into agreements with Veolia have had them open to the public before the deal is finalized. It is essential that all contractors be held publicly accountable and this can only be done if there is a genuine effort to keep the public informed about the work they do.
- Veolia has a terrible track record in dealing with public issues and concerns. There are a number of cases in which cities have terminated their agreements with Veolia due to concerns about the company's technical, financial or environmental performance. For example, the City of Indianapolis has just agreed to pay Veolia $29 million in order to get out of their contract.
Please do everything possible to meet our current and future wastewater treatment needs, without engaging in highly questionable or risky ventures with companies like Veolia. There are better options and you should make every effort to use companies and means that protect our interests, not put them at risk.
Thank you for your attention.
Sample letter B: to the Mayor and City Councillors
Dear Mayor and Councillors:
I am writing to ask you to reconsider negotiating a contract with Veolia for the following reasons:
- Our wastewater treatment processes need to be the best possible with current technology in order to ensure the health of our community and our river and lake. The technology to remove excess nutrients and pollutants before the effluent is returned to the river will be improving over time and we want to have the flexibility to upgrade without being tied into a 30 year contract.
- There are revenue generating opportunities now with technologies that extract the phosphorus from the wastewater and turn it into saleable fertilizer. This is being done in Edmonton now. Why not have the city (and therefore tax payers) reap those profits rather than have them exported to a company headquartered in France?
- The secrecy of the terms of this deal is alarming. Other cities that have entered agreements with Veolia have had them open to the public before the deal is finalized.
- There are a number of cases in which cities have decided to terminate their agreements with Veolia before the end of the contract due to concerns about the company's performance. The most recent of these is Indianapolis who has just agreed to pay Veolia $29 million in order to get out of the contract. What assurance do we have that his would not occur in Winnipeg?
Please say no to an agreement with Veolia for these reasons.
Thank you for taking the time to participate and insisting your voice be heard on this vital decision.
|Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on November 11, 2010 at 3:15 PM||comments (1)|
The German newspaper TAZ has in its Saturday edition exposed details of the secret water privatization contract that has since 1999 secured Veolia excessively high, guaranteed profits from water supply in Berlin. Over 280,000 Berlin citizens recently signed a petition demanding the Veolia contract to be disclosed to the public._______________________________________________________________________________
The Predatory Water Privatization
Article form TAZ (original in German) October 30, 2010
by: Von Sebastian Heiser
"Secret Treaties show: Berlin in the privatization of its water companies guaranteed high profits to the buyers - at the expense of consumers. The taz (German newspaper) puts the contracts on the web.
More than 280,000 Berliners have signed a petition to see these documents: contracts, in which the state privatized its water works ten years ago. Since then the rates increased significantly. But the contractual basis of price gains, the state of Berlin and the private buyers had kept it till this day under wraps.
Now taz has for the first time ever obtained these controversial documents. They show how the state government has given to private shareholders a profit guarantee, which not even the country's Constitutional Court could overturn. They show the basis on which RWE and the French group Veolia are earning in the capital every year hundreds of millions with water.
The case illustrates, where it can lead, when a monopoly on a vital element like water is privatized. About 40 percent of drinking water in Germany is now being sold by companies that are wholly or partly in private hands. These include the water works of Bremen, Essen, Höxter, Gelsenkirchen, Dresden, Schwerin, Goslar, Cottbus and Rostock. And so far nowhere all contracts to the lucrative business have been published.
In 1999, the State of Berlin had sold a share of 49.9 percent of the water companies for 3.3 billion marks. The state government predicted the water works a rosy future thereby. From a bureaucratic managed state-owned company should be a water service provider, who is also active in many other areas of business. CDU Senator Elmar Pieroth said in the Berlin House of Representatives about the Water Works, "Let it still more be an entrepreneur, then the workers in the Water Works will benefit from secure, advanced and better-paid jobs, but also others who are looking for work in Berlin. "The SPD parliamentary leader Klaus Boegersaid it was "unfair" by the opposition to "play with the ever-present fears and concerns and needs of people for jobs."
But the fears were more than justified: After the sale the water corporations [Veolia and RWE] sold off most of telecommunications (Berlikomm) and waste (black pump) and other parts of their business in which they were competing with other companies. They focused instead on its monopoly, the Berlin water. Instead of the promised new jobs, the number of employees has been reduced. Currently are working for the water companies - including the remaining subsidiaries - only 5283 people. In 1999 there were 6265 people.
The profits increased significantly in the same period - because the country had also promised the buyers in the secret treaties a profit guarantee for the monopoly business. The costs were included in the water tariffs, ie paid by the Berliners. But even in 1999 declared the country's Constitutional Court, the basis for the profit guarantee unconstitutional. The secret contracts says that the government of Berlin in this case must compensate the private companies. They could, therefore, first skim the profits of water companies - the country had to take what was left.
In 2004, the State of Berlin agreed with the corporations to change the secret treaties. It includes again the original formula, which forms the basis for the profit guarantee. The formula prohibited by the Constitutional Court will continue - it was simply moved from a publicly visible law into secret contracts. What happened in the 90’s arranging such conditions and what was then the responsible finance senator now says of the business check out the whole story in the current issue of sonntaz. And the water treaties themselves are from Saturday to download at www.taz.de/wasservertrag "
For the original article (in German) click here
For the contract (in German) click here
Special thanks to Jutta Schuetz from Aquattac, Satoko Kishimoto of Transnational Institute and Google Translator for the english translation.
Article via Dr. Mary LeMaître, Chair, Winnipeg Water Watch
|Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on October 25, 2010 at 11:43 PM||comments (0)|
The Veolia Files - A People of Interest Special hosted by Michael Welch
On Monday, October 25th CKUW 95.5 FM aired "The Veolia Files - A People of Interest Special" radio show to give people information on what Veolia's track record is and what might be in store for Winnipeg's future with this huge multi-national corporation. It's chilling to hear the similarities between the stories of these Veolia victim cities and what's panning out in Winnipeg.
"There are a lot of loopholes in the contract that Veolia will put in there... I don't necessarily blame Veolia. I mean their main reason to be there is to make a profit. They're there to benefit. They're beholden to their shareholders. They're not beholden to the citizens."
Jason Myers - Resident/Citizen Activist based in Richmond, CA.
"It's funny, since Veolia has taken over a few months ago... these same people that they said were unqualified, they absorbed into the Veolia system and they're running this plant the same as they were long before Veolia was ever on the scene. It's funny, you know, new employees became experts, and that was just with the stroke of a pen, when they changed their uniform logo from Novato Sanitary District to Veolia they just all of a sudden became experts. That whole thing about being unqualified, that just doesn't hold."
Dennis Welsh - Retired Wastewater Manager - Novato, CA.
"So they tried to put the blame on the region... They actually closed the plant (waste-water treatment plant) for 10 days in December 2009, in an attempt to raise the stakes. You could call that environmental blackmail really. And so the end of the story is that basically Veolia is trying to have the region pay for the development of it's own technology that it will then be able to sell elsewhere."
Martin Pigeon - Researcher with Corporate Europe Observatory - Brussels, Belgium
"We've gone from having a water system that was worth some value in 2002 to having a water system in disrepair and billions of dollars in debt."
Kerwin Olson - Consumer advocate based in Indianapolis, IN.
Please listen to the archived radio show click here
|Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on October 22, 2010 at 11:51 AM||comments (0)|
The Veolia Files - A People of Interest Special
For those who were unable to participate in the virtual town hall and those still thirsty for information on what Veolia's track record is, please tune-in to CKUW 95.5 FM at 3:00 pm on Monday, October 25th to hear "The Veolia Files - A People of Interest Special". Listen to some examples of real experiences from other cities that fell victim to Veolia.
Kerwin Olson - Consumer advocate based in Indianapolis, IN.
Jason Myers - Resident/Citizen Activist based in Richmond, CA.
Martin Pigeon - Researcher with Corporate Europe Observatory - Brussels, Belgium
Dennis Welsh - Retired Wastewater Manager - Novato, CA.
What do Winnipeggers know about this company? CKUW volunteer and Council of Canadians-Winnipeg Chapter Chair, Michael Welch, will present his research on the pros and cons of dealing with this firm.
If you miss the radio show please check back here, to canadianswinnipeg.com for a link after the show is aired.
click here to download PDF of 'ENOUGH CRAP!' handbill.
|Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on October 16, 2010 at 11:04 PM||comments (0)|
Winnipeg's important public wastewater service goes down the drain
A CORPORATE MODEL
In July of 2009, Winnipeg City Council voted to approve of contentious changes to the way the City of Winnipeg governs its water and waste services. The changes would involve the creation of a new for-profit corporate utility that would take on the functions of the current Department of Water and Waste. In addition, the city would procure a so-called strategic private sector partner to work with the new utility to oversee waste water treatment upgrades at two water pollution control centres in Winnipeg. The changes amounted to replacing a totally public system of management to a hybrid public-private system.
PROFIT OVER PEOPLE
The problem with these changes, above and beyond the fact that they were approved without proper public consultation, is that they would divest the public of at least some responsibility and control over a vital service. As Ricardo Acuna of the Alberta based Parkland Institute has explained, a for-profit corporation's mandate to maximize profits would likely take precedence over social or environmental excellence or proper city planning. This is especially a concern in difficult economic times.
One of the concerns raised by public interest groups was the likelihood that the corporate utility would sell water and waste services to outlying municipalities and bedroom communities. While it is understandable that these areas might want such services, the City of Winnipeg must be mindful about creating an infrastructure that could lead to further urban sprawl as business and industry takes advantage of this utility in a lower taxed jurisdiction.
Deeply concerning is the inclusion of a private partner. The original proposal would have called for the a private engineering firm to design, build, finance and potentially operate the provincially mandated sewage upgrades. (Financing was later taken off the table.)
Other municipalities that have embraced this hybrid system have encountered difficulties. Many governments are attracted to private partnerships on the grounds that the private companies, through a competitive process, are motivated to be more efficient and innovative.
The problem is that savings through these sorts of private-public partnerships are usually achieved by cutting corners on employee benefits, environmental monitoring and, most commonly, by significant rate hikes.
In May of 2010, City Council approved of city staff's proposal to accept Veolia Canada as the private partner to oversee the sewage upgrades. The elected representatives who approved of the choice however, never saw the actual contract. Moreover, the contract called for Veolia to be involved for 30 years in the sewage treatment operations and maintenance.
While this contract stipulates that Veolia would have a consultative as opposed to a direct role in providing services, Ricardo Acuna warns that the city would not likely go against Veolia's advice as the city has declared them to be the experts. So for all intents and purposes, the city would do whatever Veolia recommended.
Veolia Canada is the Canadian subsidiary of France based Veolia Environnement, the biggest water services company in the world. Based out of Paris, France, it earns an annual revenue of $50 billion and operates in 66 countries world-wide.
Veolia has developed a notorious reputation for poor quality work and aggressiveness in seeking contracts. Many of its previous clients have come to regret their involvement with them. Included here are a few case studies that should give Winnipeggers pause about dealing with this corporation.
In 2002, Indianapolis signed a 20 year $1.5 billion contract with Veolia's US subsidiary (then US Filter). Since then, the following problems have ensued:
- Veolia cut benefits to non-union employees costing them $50 million over 25 years.
- Less than a year into the deal, consumer complaints more than doubled.
- Improper safeguards led to a boil water alert affecting more than 1 million people.
- Customers seeking class-action status sued the company and the city for over charging them.
- An independent review revealed lax oversight of the city's contract.
- Indianapolis drinking water was ranked second-worst out of 100 large US cities.
- To cover its losses, Veolia extracted concessions from the city forcing the city to raise rates.
In 1999, Veolia's predecessor, Vivendi, took charge of the city's sewage treatment plants. Subsequently:
- Raw sewage was dumped into the Mississipi River 50 times in 2001 and 2002.
- The Sewerage and Water Board withheld $2.5 million dollars in payments for poor performance.
- Public outrage over loss of transparency and accountability in a proposed contract stymied Veolia's bid to oversee a combined water/wastewater contract in 2002.
In 2002, the city rejected a renewal of its water and waste water contract with Veolia predecessor Vivendi following a report detailing $6.2 million in fines, $695 million in operational losses, and over 3,000 operational, maintenance and administrative deficiencies.
In 2004, the town canceled its sewage contract with Veolia following revelations the agreement may have been illegally tailored to Veolia. A Veolia employee and town official later pleaded guilty to embezzling $166,000 from the city. In 2007, the US District Court fined Veolia $233,000 for acting “unfairly and deceptively” to win the contract.
The city cancelled their wastewater contract with Veolia and had to make thousands of dollars in repairs to their treatment plant blaming Veolia for neglect and poor maintenance.
In 2004, the town terminated its contract with Veolia, accusing the company of failing to provide adequate staffing levels, providing inadequate service, and over charging for maintenance and repair work.
Source - A Closer Look: Veolia Environnement, Fact Sheet, September 2010 from Food & Water Watch
South Winnipeg Water Pollution Control Centre
|Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on October 9, 2010 at 1:30 PM||comments (2)|
The Mayor's EPC does not favour democracy
City Council’s Executive Policy Committee (EPC) is supposed to be an impartial body that “formulates and presents recommendations to council respecting policies, plans, budgets, by-laws and other matters that affect the city as a whole.”(1) It is expected to act in the best interests of the citizens of Winnipeg for the good of the City. It is not expected to allow personal considerations or members’ business interests to influence its decisions.
Composed of the mayor, “any other members of council appointed by the mayor”(2) and the chairs of the standing committees (also appointed by the Mayor), it’s difficult to see how the EPC could remain impartial. At present*, there are seven members out of a total of fifteen on City Council, one of whom is the “other member of council”(2) personally appointed by the mayor, without any requirement for consultation or consensus with the rest of council.
In the case of a genuinely unbiased mayor and council, such a system might do wonders for expediency. However, when people allow themselves to be swayed by their own self-interest, it can too easily become nothing more than a tool of promotion for one’s own benefit.
Other Canadian cities also have EPCs or some version of an EPC; however Winnipeg is the only municipality that allows one person’s choice to carry such enormous weight, and the only EPC comprising such a high proportion of council members. In Toronto, the council appoints four fellow councillors to the executive in addition to the chairs of all Standing Committees; the total number is only twelve EPC members out of the forty-five city councillors. Vancouver, Calgary and Regina all have a system of boards, committees and commissions composed of both councillors and citizens who together make recommendations to council. The structure of these councils would indicate that they welcome accountability and want the involvement of the people they serve.
If the Mayor of Winnipeg wants to push through a certain project or deal there is little room for lively debate, no need for true public consultation and little motivation for thorough due diligence. This method of operation has been demonstrated by the secret thirty-year contract with an international water corporation of questionable reputation, which EPC unanimously approved of in the face of widespread opposition. (click here to read more about this deal.)
More worrisome is the potential for financial conflict of interest. If the Mayor should have business interests that overlap with council decisions on policy, it becomes nearly impossible for EPC members (remember they are personally appointed by the Mayor) to act impartially for the good of the city, without being influenced by the Mayor’s preferences. While the City of Winnipeg Charter prevents any member of council from voting on a question or motion where the member “...has, under the general law, a conflict of interest in respect of the question or motion”(2) it would seem that under the present structure that the mayor - even when abstaining - has six votes, all with other people’s names on them.
Not long ago, council voted to forgive a debt arising from a needlessly complicated situation involving the Mayor's ball team, the Mayor's non-profit corporation (Riverside Park Management) and it's unpaid bill of $233,000 for a parking lot leased from the City and sublet to the Goldeyes. Because of situations like this, Winnipeggers and a majority of councillors (seven out of the thirteen present for the vote on February 18, 2009) want the province to review the conflict of interest rules and give the provincial Conflict of Interest Commissioner more authority over the City. To date, nothing has been done. For the record, Mayor Katz voted against the motion.
Winnipeg has a long history of cultural, racial and class divides that have lead to weak government, lack of leadership, and an overly powerful bureaucracy. “Instead of major problems being confronted, managed and resolved, by either critical self-examination, negotiation, or attempts at reconciliation, the city has been stymied by the politics of denial, evasion, suppression and displacement.”(1992) (3)
Sounds a lot like what’s still happening today, nearly twenty years later.
Contributor: Mary McCandless, Council of Canadians - Winnipeg Chapter
*Until the sad passing of Councillor Clement on May 3rd, 2010.
(1) 2007 City of Winnipeg Municipal Manual
(2) City of Winnipeg Charter
(3) The Failure of Urban Government: The Case of Winnipeg, Kent Gerecke and Barton Reid. In “Political Arrangements” Henri Lustiger-Thaler, ed.