Participants: Sonia Stanger [PRO] and Sean Wilson [CONTRA]
Sonia Stanger – Contributor
On Sep 25, the citizens of Regina will head to the polls to decide whether they want to keep public control of a new wastewater treatment plant. I would encourage each and every student at the University of Regina to vote Yes.
In February, city council voted to proceed with a P3 – that is, public-private partnership – model, wherein a private corporation would finance, design, build, operate and maintain the plant. A group of concerned citizens collected over 24,000 Regina resident signatures for a petition to hold a referendum on this issue, however the city did their darnedest to suppress public engagement and silence citizens’ voices.
But why are these citizens so concerned in the first place?
People are concerned because a P3 model would mean putting the control of our water, a human right and a public resource, into the hands of a private corporation. Despite what proponents of the privatization option say, this issue is indeed about water. The effluent, or treated product, of Regina’s wastewater treatment plant goes back into our watershed and ends up as drinking water in other communities. The plant is a part of the water cycle, and it is critical that sufficient monitoring be done to ensure that its environmental impacts are kept to a minimum.
People are concerned because the bottom line is that a private company’s primary concern must always be the maximization of shareholder profits. This means that profits come before infrastructure, employees, and best practices on a list of priorities. What’s more, we do not know how much taxpayers will be forced to pay to ensure that this private company is seeing profit from the running of the plant.
People are concerned because the City’s proposed route would lock us into a secret 30-year deal with the private partner, the details of which have been blacked out. The City states that the P3 is a cheaper option, but the fact remains that Regina’s citizens have no way of knowing how much a P3 will end up costing taxpayers. In fact, an independent analysis done by economist Hugh MacKenzie states that the traditional Design, Bid, Build method, which would keep the plant in public hands, will cost between $37.4 million – $77.2 million less than going the P3 route.
People are also concerned because, although the City claims to have made the decision to go with a P3 with financial responsibility in mind, they have been shamefully financially irresponsible. The vote No campaign has been funded by the City with over $340,000 of taxpayers’ money – three times what the City is spending to inform citizens about how and where to vote.
While I am not directly associated with the Regina Water Watch campaign, I have watched the groundswell of support with interest. The people who have engaged me on this issue are not “union bosses.” They are concerned citizens, from university students to grandparents, who are passionate about Regina’s right to democratically control its own future.
Polls are open across the city from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sep 25. I encourage you to vote Yes to keep water public and to keep taxpayer dollars from padding private pockets.
Sean Wilson – Contributor
In less than two weeks, Regina’s residents will go to the polls to decide how to finance the new wastewater treatment plant. At this point in the game, I’m sure I don’t need to go over the history of the wastewater treatment plant and the subject of the discussion. Instead, I am going to outline what is at stake and why you should vote No on Sep. 25.
First and foremost, every claim that the city has made about the consequence of the Yes side winning is absolutely true. $58 million dollars from the federal government? Gone. Utility rate hikes over the next four years? You bet. Regardless of how CUPE and its shell group known as Regina Water Watch tries to downplay this, these are the stone cold facts.
The most obvious one is that this does not deal with drinking water, but wastewater. When this fact came to light, they curiously played down the ad featuring a little girl drinking a glass of water and tried to move their argument in line with the actual debate over wastewater. Another is what I view as being the main complaints that CUPE has against the city’s claims. For example, the claim that the $58 million will only cover the interest payments: if the plant is being built anyway, why would we turn down money to pay for it, even if it only covers interest fees. Money doesn’t grow on trees and, without a P3, this project will be financed through a deficit (which includes interest payments). They also seem to accept the fact that voting Yes will bring about utility hikes, but something I have been hearing people saying is that they are afraid that the private company operating the treatment plant will hike their utility rates to increase profits. This is simply utter and complete garbage, as the plant will remain in control of the city and it will be the city that decides how the rates are increased or lowered. Let’s be very clear, water will always be public. Anyone who tells you anything other than that is lying to you.
It seems the common theme with CUPE and its Water Watch campaign is deception. They bounce from one lie to another, using what they can until they are discovered and need to think up something new. The question this brings about is why would a Union that is supposed to represent workers be willing to flat out lie to them so easily? It is because CUPE does not care about its workers, but about politics. Even though the P3 will create many new well-paying jobs, it’s of no concern to them if those workers are not paying union dues. The P3 model has been used around the world for literally thousands of projects and has a very good track record. CUPE can point to a few examples where it went wrong, the city can point to thousands where it worked just fine. The fact of the matter is that given human error both models can fail, but the P3 model has the best track record with the most positive spin-off effects.
The thing that we should be worried about as residents of Regina is that there is a union claiming to represent it’s workers going out of its way to run a campaign of deception. Significant portions of CUPE’s workforce will be voting no on September 25th, but they are still seeing their money being used in this campaign against their will. This is an organization that cares more about its level of political influence than for what is best for the city and its people. The vote is coming up soon, and when you vote, be careful to remember what’s at stake.