|Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on May 12, 2010 at 12:09 PM|
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.
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