The Council of Canadians - Winnipeg Chapter


POLL: 78% of Winnipeg residents say Veolia deal must be made public‏

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on October 8, 2010 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (0)

CUPE reports that, "A Probe Research survey shows that 78 per cent of Winnipeg residents believe that all the details of the 30-year contract the City of Winnipeg entered into with the private contractor Veolia Canada should be made public before the October 27 municipal election."

"(The poll) shows overall opposition to the Veolia deal is also strong, as 61 percent of Winnipeggers oppose it..."

The Winnipeg chapter of the Council of Canadians has led opposition to the secret deal with Veolia. They have been instrumental in the growing campaign that questions the secret 30-year, $1.2 billion deal signed by the City of Winnipeg and Veolia. With the contract, the private company will design, build and help manage $661 million in upgrades to two wastewater plants.

Winnipeg Sun columnist Joyanne Pursaga wrote on September 25 that, “In that context,it’s no surprise one advocacy group is trying to make the mysterious deal a 2010 civic election issue. The Council of Canadians has filed an official complaint about the wastewater deal with the provincial ombudsman. The city still awaits provincial approval on the deal. The group also requested a copy of the contract under freedom of information legislation, which the city denied.”

More on the Council chapter's complaint to the provincial ombudsman at

More on the poll at


Contributor: Brent Patterson, Council of Canadians Director of Campaigns and Communications


Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on October 6, 2010 at 10:10 PM Comments comments (0)

When a candidate for city council or mayor comes to your door or when you see them at your local forum, we encourage you to ask them these relevant questions.


Increased transparency was one of the main reasons given for involving a private partner and moving to a Municipal Corporate Utility (MCU) model for the wastewater treatment plant upgrades, but now we’re told that details of the 30 year wastewater treatment contract with a disreputable multinational corporation can’t be shared due to private third party business interests. If elected how would you ensure that councillors and citizens have adequate information to make effective decisions and would you need to see the contract, a detailed business plan - or - do you agree with Councillor Russ Wyatt's comments at the May 19 Council meeting that you just must have; quote “faith in our staff who have done their due diligence.”?

Lakes and Rivers

The health of our lakes and rivers is very important to the people that swim, play and fish in them. What is your long tern vision to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy clean and healthy waterways throughout the province and what process or strategies would you put in place to realize that vision?

Urban Sprawl

Several delegations appearing in front of the EPC and Council argued that the creation of a new municipal utility which has yet to be approved by the province which seeks profits by selling services outside the city of Winnipeg would enable businesses and residents outside the city of Winnipeg to free-ride on services paid for by higher taxed Winnipeggers leading to urban sprawl and a further hollowing out of the city core. How do you recommend City Council act to prevent this from happening?



Given that Winnipeg’s budget has higher expenditures then revenue and is only “balanced” due to the city selling off assets, how do you see Winnipeg getting out of this structural deficit - and - will you commit yourself to clear and transparent budgets that make all tax and fee hikes explicit?

Flat Water Use Rates

The City of Winnipeg Waste and Water Department water rates had three rate tiers with heavy users paying less per unit of water. Given that a responsible city government should want to promote water conservation, we should not allow large users to pay less and use more. If elected will you commit to changing this policy and adopt a flat water rate?

click here for printable handbill. (Cut it down the middle, and share a copy with a friend.)

click here to check our calender for upcoming debates and forums.

Please come out to vote on WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 27th

Wastewater utility article in the Uniter

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on September 26, 2010 at 5:07 PM Comments comments (0)

September 23rd 2010

The Better Voter Series:

You can’t fight city hall… or so the saying goes
Wastewater utility decision shows that civil society gains are possible

by Michael Welch (Volunteer)

The obstacles facing citizen groups and social justice advocates who attempt to influence policy decisions at the municipal level can seem insurmountable. Indeed, this sentiment may have something to do with the abysmally low voter turnout that typically dogs civic elections.

Therefore, it is critical to acknowledge and celebrate occasions when civil society does have an impact on political decision making.

One such occasion would be the role of citizens’ pressure in affecting changes to the governance model of the city’s water and waste services.

The new plan for managing these critical services was first brought to the attention to Winnipeggers in the fall of 2008.

The scheme would have, according to the wording of the motion introduced at city council, set up “a new arms-length business model to operate city owned utilities” including water and sewage treatment. Secondarily, the city would procure a “strategic partner” to “design, construct, finance and operate” Winnipeg’s pollution control centres.

This apparent move toward greater privatization of government services was greeted with suspicion and some alarm by a number of citizens and citizen groups.

In the face of this perceived new threat, a coalition of community, student, church and union groups sprang up in opposition to the new arrangement. These groups faced the daunting task of confronting an indifferent press and a powerful mayor notoriously dismissive of anyone challenging his “running the city like a business” philosophy.

As it turned out, Mayor Sam Katz got more than he bargained for.

These progressive forces came together under the moniker of “Water Watch,” and began to undertake a number of outreach efforts geared toward warning the general public and foiling the mayor’s dangerous agenda for water and waste services in the city.

Katz, for his part, accused these community groups of “fear-mongering” and of misleading people into thinking the city was privatizing its water. A couple of “public consultations” at the Masonic temple flopped and were seen by attendees as more of a sales pitch than anything else.

By mid-July of 2009, a community forum on the plan sponsored by the Council of Women of Manitoba convened at the Unitarian Church. It invited three city administrators to explain the merits of the plan to an audience of nearly 300. The officials left the forum before questions from the crowd could be fielded.

Op-ed pieces and letters to the editor began appearing frequently in the paper, mostly critical of the mayor’s plan. Even Winnipeg Free Press editorial writers who were initially supportive of the plan began to express reservations.

The tide of public opinion had turned against the mayor.

On July 21, 2009, the eve of the council vote, 300 people showed up at a city hall rally denouncing the planned utility model.

The next day, galleries on both sides of the council chamber were filled to capacity. More than 30 delegations from a variety of groups and perspectives signaled their disapproval of the plan.

In spite of all of this, the motion passed 10 to six in favour of creating the arms-length corporate water utility.

Yet, all was not lost. On the positive side, a couple of amendments were moved through to address citizens’ concerns, including a provision that mandated the new utility be similar in form to Manitoba Hydro. Consequently, the province would have to insist on tough guidelines ensuring greater transparency and accountability.

Furthermore, the role of the strategic partner, Veolia Canada, was reduced to consultancy in the design, construction and long-term maintenance of the wastewater upgrades. Financing, a major sticking point for activists, would be excluded from the private partner’s responsibility.

Whether the mayor is ultimately held to account on this critical public interest concern, however, will of course depend on the willingness of the electorate to continue the job Water Watch started.

Oct. 27 is an important day: a day when you get to choose your city, and your future.

Michael Welch is a community activist and broadcaster with CKUW 95.9 FM. He is currently the chair of the Winnipeg chapter of the Council of Canadians and co-chair of Winnipeg Water Watch.

click here for original Uniter article.


Sources include:

 Is Winnipeg’s water being privatized? - CUPE Manitoba Feb 4, 2009

Fast Facts: The Councils of Women vs. the municipal corporate utility by Carolyn Garlich

City council approves new utility, By: Bartley Kives, Winnipeg Free Press

Newest Sewage Treatment Plan: Some wins, but a deal with Veolia is no victory. Council of Canadians-Winnipeg Chapter blog


City denies access to information on Veolia deal, again‏

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on September 22, 2010 at 11:39 PM Comments comments (1)

For Immediate Release:

September 22, 2010

Local public advocacy group tells the city to "show us the money" following blocked freedom of information request.

Winnipeg (MB) - As Winnipeg City Council convenes for the final time before the civic election, a local citizens' organization is demanding the disclosure of critical details surrounding a long term waste water treatment contract.

The Winnipeg chapter of the Council of Canadians sent out a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) request last May demanding to know more about the award of contract to the firm Veolia Canada.

In May of this year, the city announced its intention to negotiate a contract worth over $1-billion with a Canadian subsidiary of the France-based trans-national firm Veolia in order to complete provincially mandated sewage treatment upgrades without inviting cost overruns.

This agreement was criticized by citizens' groups, including the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation on the grounds that it was an expensive thirty year contract that not one of the Councilors had read, and that it was sketchy about how Veolia would secure its profits and reduce the overall cost of the project by 10-20%.

The Council of Canadians Winnipeg chapter sought information about the business case behind these calculations. The city responded by saying the information was withheld on the grounds that "disclosure (would be) harmful to a third party's business interests," and that in the case of the basis for the 10-20% savings, "the information is already available in the report" on the sewage treatment and expansion program award of contract.

Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter representative Michael Welch who filed the request says that blocking of information is not unheard of where public-private partnerships are involved.

"This characteristic is part of what motivated us to oppose this P3 framework in the first place," he says.

Moreover, a major selling point of the new Water and Waste governance plan which enabled this setup, he says, was the assertion that the resulting changes would lead to more transparency. To quote the June 2009 Utility Business Plan: "The Public Service recommends the establishment of a 100%City-owned, arm’s length Municipal Utility that the City cannot sell in whole orin part. This will benefit citizens, ratepayers, and employees by makingservice more accountable and transparent, and ensuring the long termsustainability of the Utility.”

What is even more concerning, from Welch's perspective, is the contention that information about the business case would be proprietary, thereby invoking the need to protect "a third party's business interests."

"A business case by definition captures the logic behind undertaking a project," he explains. "It is not specific to any one company and would have been prepared before Veolia was ultimately selected by city staff."

The Council of Canadians-Winnipeg Chapter has filed a complaint with the provincial ombudsman and is waiting for a reply. In the meantime, the group is urging opposition councilors like Veolia deal critic Jenny Gerbasi to force these details out into the open and encouraging Council and Mayoral candidates and the general public to press Veolia deal supporters in council on this issue during the municipal elections.



                  FIPPA Refusal                      Complaint to Manitoba Ombudsman


Timely Book on P3s Released Tonight

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on June 8, 2010 at 12:41 PM Comments comments (0)

John Loxley will be releasing his new book Public Service, Private Profits tonight at the Modragon. Today's Winnipeg Free Press makes the connection between this book's exposure of the dangers of P3s and the City's recent deal with Veolia.

"In Winnipeg, the France-based company will manage and run the renovated plants for 30 years, reportedly saving the city between 10 and 20 per cent of the expected total $1.2 billion operating and capital costs.

Still not made public is how much Veolia will make in profits, the penalty the city must pay to terminate the deal,exactly who covers cost overruns, and from where exactly the 10 to 20 per cent savings will come.

Most of that information is considered proprietary and not even councillors nor Mayor Sam Katz have access to it.

"There is a tremendous lack of information of what these deals actually are. It's very difficult to get information on them," Loxley said, adding he's still waiting for information on the Charleswood Bridge, another case study in his book.

Loxley will launch his book at Mondragon Bookstore and Coffee House on Albert Street at 7 p.m. Loxley won the prestigious 2010 John Kenneth Galbraith Prize in Economics in March, for a demonstrated contribution combining economic analysis with acommitment to social justice."


Winnipeg Free Press - Book uncovers dangers of P3s, Private-public partnerships explained, By: Matt Preprost, 8/06/2010

To read the full article click here.

They say "It's not about Water"

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on June 6, 2010 at 5:37 PM Comments comments (1)

Proponents of the City of Winnipeg's deal with Veolia say it has nothing to do with water.

The day before the May 19th Council Meeting, that saw Winnipeg City Council vote 9 to 4 in favour of the signing with Veolia, St. Norbert Ward Councillor Justin Swandel went on CJOB to confront members of Water Watch. During the exchange Swandel said "Again I'll remind you it's not about water. You'll see that the pair in front of me keep going back to the word water. Water! Water! Water every chance they get. We're talking about sewage here."

To which Dr. Mary LeMaître of Water Watch answered, "You're dealing with a multi-national corporation who aggressively goes after water. There's a growing world water shortage and these companies know that if they have control then they're going to make a profit, and I'm not just talking about drinking water."


On May 18th in front of City Hall, at a rally opposing the Veolia deal, Provincial Green Party leader James Beddome asked the crowd, "We don't have to use so much water to deal with our waste and if we have a private company how much control are we going to have over it? How much are we going to be able to direct that in the future? Or is that all going to be protected by the contract? I'm sure they've got their lawyers already working on that."

During the City Council debate on May 19th St. Boniface Ward Councillor Dan Vandal said "Once this is approved this afternoon and Veolia is managing our waste water for the next 30 years, they are going to do everything in their power to manage our water next...You can count on it." as reported by the Winnipeg Free Press.

Veolia has aggressively gone after control of water and promotion of privatizing water in countless countries. Although the plan for the utility said that water is to be fully owned and controlled by the utility, the deal leaves room for other expansions in its strategic partnership, which might include staff 'expertise' and 'technology transfer' for water. As well the plan and the utility model may be changed as there is no act governing it. We just formed a 30 year partnership with a company that we know is eyeing our water, and might just get it through its political influence, lawyers, industry experience and other resources.

This deal is all about water. It's about the water that goes down our drains and is flushed down our toilets. It's also about the water we swim, play and fish in. The point is that it's not exactly about drinking water...yet!

Veolia Deal Disheartening

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on May 25, 2010 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Thanks to everyone that came out for the rallies, signed the petitons and wrote letters! Thanks for packing the gallery at City Hall during the May 19th Council Meeting!

After mobilizing for so many months against this P3 arrangement, it was quite disheartening, though not altogether unexpected, that Winnipeg City Council voted 9-4 in favour of a 30 year contract with the disreputable company Veolia.

Those that blindly voted in favour of the deal with Veolia were:

Sam Kats, Mayor of Winnipeg

Justin Swandel, St. Norbert Ward

Gord Steeves, St. Vital Ward

Mike O'Shaughnessy, Old Kildonan Ward

Mike Pagtakhan, Point Douglas Ward

Russ Wyatt, Transcona Ward

Grant Nordman, St. Charles Ward

Jeff Browaty, North Kildonan Ward

Scott Fielding, St. James - Brooklands Ward

All is not lost however. The Province still has some say in this. Please continue to contact your Provincial representative and let them know that a secret deal with a disreputable corporation like Veolia is no deal at all!

There is no doubt that this critical vote will have consequences in October's Civic elections.

CCPA - Fast Facts: Contract with Veolia...

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on May 15, 2010 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

exept from: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Fast Facts article - Lynne Fernandez - May 14, 2010

"Fast Facts: Contract with Veolia for waste-water treatment does not pass the smell test

On May 12 EPC unanimously voted to accept a report prepared by Winnipeg Public Services. The Report recommends that the City award a contract to Veolia for the design, construction and, it appears, the shared operation of the South and North End sewage treatment plants. The Report assures readers that this is a good deal for Winnipeg. But those of us who have been following the process are not convinced.

Winnipeggers will be forgiven for not fully understanding what is at stake, or for not being able to follow the complicated, increasingly arcane recommendations and business plans leading to this week’s report. The CCPA and citizens’ groups raised enough concerns about the initial Plan A — first presented in November, 2008 — that the City came up with a Plan B. Plan B was passed by council last July, in spite of the many concerns voiced by citizens’ groups."

to find out about Plan C and more, please read more >>


Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on May 12, 2010 at 4:22 PM Comments comments (0)

Would you sign a 30‐year mortgage for a house without knowing the price you’re paying?

That’s exactly what Winnipeg City Council is being asked to do on Wednesday, May 19 when it votes on whether to approve a 30‐year private‐public partnership (P3) with Veolia, one of the world’s largest multinational corporations, and one with a deplorable environmental and social track record.

If approved, the City of Winnipeg will be locked into a long‐term agreement with Veolia that will involve the design, building and management of Winnipeg’s sewage treatment plant upgrades and expansion plans.

On the basis of a nine‐page summary report written by city staff, and without being given adequate information or the numbers behind it, your city councillor is being asked to sign on the dotted line and commit the city of Winnipeg to a 30‐year contract with total estimated operating costs of $1.6 billion and $661 million in capital costs. Councillors haven’t even seen the actual contract that is to be signed with Veolia, and given the confidentiality rules that protect private corporations, the public is unlikely to ever see the contract.

The summary report doesn’t even say how much the City of Winnipeg will pay Veolia for their “expertise."

The summary claims “the 30 year contract is expected to save taxpayers from 10 to 20% of the entire sewage treatment program costs,” but doesn’t say where those savings will come from (besides vague references to “improved design,” “innovation” and “bulk purchasing") or offer any numbers to back this claim up.

The summary promises that Veolia will share with the city in the financial risks associated with the project, but doesn’t say what Veolia will get in return for assuming this risk or how much it will cost Winnipeg.

The summary claims “all direct costs will be delivered on a transparent and open book basis and be subject to audit” but Winnnipegers – and even city councillors – aren’t even allowed to see the contract before they sign it. This doesn’t sound very transparent.

The summary says “the contract will contain provisions for the City to terminate if ever required” but doesn’t tell Winnipegers how much it will cost to get out of the contract they’ve signed.

Even if it it’s the best deal in the world, there is no way for Winnipegers or their elected representatives to know.

Sound crazy? You can read the summary that councilors are being asked to make a 30‐year decision on, click here.

Last July Mayor Katz and eight councillors voted to move forward on the creation of a private corporate utility to handle Winnipeg’s wastewater, despite widespread public opposition and a vague business plan. Now, once again, city council is rushing ahead with a vague plan before Winnipegers – and even council – are given the details they need to make an informed decision.

We need you to take action today to stop city council from committing you to a contract none of you have seen. Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Write to city councilors and the mayor
  • Write letters to the editor
  • Attend the May 19 City Council Meeting
  • Spread the word!

1. Write to city councilors and the mayor

Step 1: Copy the following into the BCC field of your email program to send an email to Mayor Katz and all city councillors:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

Step 2: Write your subject line and message

Using your own words:

  • Tell council that you don’t want them committing you to a 30‐year contract that has not been made public and councilors have not seen.
  • Ask them how much Winnipeg is paying Veolia for their “expertise”.
  • Ask them to see the full business case which justifies the numbers contained in the nine‐page summary.
  • Ask them what Veolia is receiving in return for taking on some of the project “risk”.
  • Ask how much it will cost if Winnipeg ever wants to get out of the contract.
  • Demand that the public be shown the full business case and the terms of the contract before they sign.
  • Ask for a response to your concern.

You can also use this sample letter if you don’t have time to write your own:

Dear Councillor,

I am writing to urge you to vote against the proposal to sign a 30‐year contract with Veolia on Wednesday, May 19. Common sense dictates that the City of Winnipeg and our elected officials cannot commit public funds towards a 30‐year contract that neither the public or our representatives on city council have seen.

I ask that you seek clarification on the following questions:

  • How much is Winnipeg paying Veolia for their “expertise?”
  • Will city councilors and the public have a chance to see the full business case which justifies the numbers contained in the nine‐page summary before the contract is signed?
  • How much it will cost if Winnipeg ever wants to get out of the contract?

I look forward to hearing the answers to these important questions and, above all, I urge that you not allow City Council to blindly sign onto a 30‐year deal based on a flimsy nine‐page report. There must be full disclosure for an informed decision to be made.


Step 3: Press send!

And then follow up your email with a phone call to your own councilor and the mayor (and as many other councilors as you have time for). You can find their phone numbers here:

2. Write letters to the editor

One of the most effective ways to influence public opinion and to put pressure on the media to give more coverage to an issue like this is to write a letter to the editor (LTE). Use the information above to write a letter to the Winnipeg Free Press to highlight your concerns.

The Winnipeg Free Press online form for LTEs is here:

Remember: be short, be polite, and it helps if you refer to a story on the issue which has already appeared in the paper.

If you have more time you can also make comments on news websites and call into open talk radio shows.

3. Attend the May 19 City Council Meeting

Packing council chambers is a sure way to let councillors know that the public is watching. This very important decision will be made at the City Council meeting on Wednesday, May 19 starting at 9:30 am. If you can, go to City Hall (510 Main Street) to pack the galleries.

If you’re a confident public speaker, you can also register to make up to a five‐minute presentation to city council to outline your concerns. To register to speak you can call 311. If the two available spots are full, contact Jenny Gerbasi at, as a request can be made to waive the rules to allow additional speakers.

4. Spread the word!

Unless they feel a lot of pressure over the next week, city council could commit all Winnipegers to this private‐public partnership by next Wednesday, so it’s important that they hear from as many people as possible as soon as possible!

Help us spread the word! Send this message out to your email contacts, Facebook networks, post it on your website or blog and encourage everyone you know to take action to demand to see the contract before it gets signed.

share this post > copy and paste this link:



Newest Sewage Treatment Plan: Some wins, but a deal with Veolia is no victory.

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on May 12, 2010 at 12:09 PM Comments comments (0)

In the summer of 2009 Winnipeggers found out that the City was looking at a private sector partner to design, build, finance and operate the North and South End sewage treatment plants. Over 30 delegations spoke before EPC urging them not to go ahead with the ill conceived plan. A petition against the private partner with over 1600 signatures was presented to City Council. Rallies and demonstrations were held protesting the plan. Polls at the time showed 75% of Winnipeggers were against the idea of the city partnering with a private corporation. A letter writing campaign began urging city councilors to reconsider.

Regardless of the public outcry, city council passed the new MCU plan 10 to 6 on July 22, 2009. But citizens of Winnipeg continued to voice their opposition. The letter writing campaign grew and now included Provincial MLAs. Facebook groups sprung up renouncing the private partner. It now seems as though at least some of our pleas were heard.


Last week the City of Winnipeg released an eight page report in which they consider a 30 year contract with Veolia Canada to design and upgrade the sewage treatment plants as well as providing continued expertise. This report will be discussed at Executive Policy Committee (EPC) meeting today and then at council on the 19th.


Thanks to people concerned about the quality of the treated water flowing back into our water ways and rejecting a for-profit sewage treatment plant model some things have now changed. The vague 8 page report being discussed at EPC today seems to include some good news:

- The City will maintain 100% ownership of the facilities.

- The Private Corporation will not be financing the upgrades.

- Council retains control and passes annual budgets.

- The City remains accountable for quality and service.

- It looks like City staff will remain in position.

- Direct costs are to be open to public and subject to audit.

But the report offers an unclear overview on what the City's proposed contract with Veolia contains. The contract is supposed to contain provisions whereby the city can terminate at any time. But there are no details on how this would transpire. What would the cost be to default or legal costs to terminate the contract? The report to be reviewed by city council mentions 10-20% cost savings, but it does not explain where these savings would come from. Without the details of the contract it is impossible to understand the deal completely.

Globally Veolia has a poor ethical history.  They have a reputation of acting unfairly and deceptively. Their track record in the United States since the 1990s includes privatization failures in communities large and small. Their negligence caused a boil-water alert for more than a million people in Indianapolis. They have racked up millions in operational losses, fines as well as maintenance and administrative deficiencies.  Citizens of Sweden took action recognizing that they will not support Veolia due to their unethical practices in other countries. The City of Winnipeg offers no good rationalization for dealing with this unethical corporation.

Ricardo Acuna of the Parkland Institute questions the reasoning for going with Veolia on CKUW this morning. "One of the justifications the City of Winnipeg is giving for... going with Veolia is that they had a bad experience before. Where a project went over budget. So they're willing to take that one bad experience and say we need a different model, but they are jumping into a new model that has generated all sorts of bad experiences across the world in terms of cost over runs and higher costs. It's difficult to understand ... how they are rationalizing all of this."  To listen to the full interview please click here.


The City is trying to rush through this deal, while offering no details to the councilors that need to decide on this plan next week. Delegates will be speaking to EPC today to denounce the proposed agreement.

copy and paste this link