The Council of Canadians - Winnipeg Chapter



Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on May 12, 2010 at 4:22 PM

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.

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Categories: Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades, What's the deal with VEOLIA?

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