Home / Op-Ed / This September, vote no to CUPE

This September, vote no to CUPE

source: Emily Wright
source: Emily Wright

Article: Alexandra Mortensen – Contributor

On Sept. 25, the City of Regina is holding a referendum on the use of a Public-Private Partnership (P3) model for a much needed sewage treatment plant. The city council voted unanimously in favour of moving forward with a P3; however, a petition requesting a referendum on the question was circulated and accepted. We now face a referendum that will not only cost taxpayers additional money, but will also greatly delay an important project.

What I find most concerning about this issue is the amount of misleading information and rhetoric surrounding it. First and foremost, the use of the word “water.” Regina Water Watch, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) backed group that circulated the petition, has deliberately confused sewage with water. Their logo is a pristine water droplet and their messaging refers often to water, rarely to waste water, and almost never to sewage.

The CUPE has taken an active stance by organizing and campaigning through Regina Water Watch. For example, they are running full-page ads featuring a young girl holding a glass of water. This is intentionally deceiving as the upcoming referendum has nothing to do with drinking water, but rather what is flushed down our toilets.

Their messaging also frequently refers to the P3 model as privatization. A public private partnership is not privatization. Privatization refers to a public entity that is sold to a private company. A project built under a public private partnership utilizes the private sector to design, build, and sometimes maintain a public service that remains under public ownership and direction. The City will continue to own the waste water treatment plant, will still set rates and standards, and has promised that all of the public employees employed at the current plant will keep their jobs.

Further, popular rhetoric insists that “the Conservatives are forcing the P3.” In actuality, the federal government is offering grants to municipalities for projects that are economically feasible and would benefit from private expertise. The City of Regina is not being “forced” into a P3 by the federal government. Like any other program, municipal governments may apply and either receive or be denied funding based on the merits of the project. The federal government is under no obligation to finance municipal projects.

There are many benefits to P3s. They have a proven track record of delivering projects on time and on budget, which is something that traditionally procured projects have a terrible record of achieving. P3s also deliver savings over the lifetime of the asset by leveraging private sector expertise in maintenance and management. By transferring some of the risks of building major capital projects, the City of Regina is being proactive in managing their capital expenditures.

Unfortunately, CUPE and self-interested lobby groups have poisoned the atmosphere of fair discussion, compromising a project for purely political purposes. Not only should Regina move forward with a P3 for the sewage treatment facility, but P3s should be considered as a possible tool for infrastructure spending on other projects in the future.

 

About Our Contributors

The University of Regina's thriving community fuels our content at the Carillon! If you've got a story worth sharing or are interested in contributing please let us know! Send an email to editor@carillonregina.com and subscribe to our pitch list!

19 comments

  1. Great article, accurate, correct, and factual. Please spread the truth. People are beginning to see through the CUPE RWW lies.

  2. How does CUPE benefit from a “yes” vote?

  3. The problem is the water they are handling is put into the water table and therefore it is drinking water.

    As to the P3 record I’m sure the people in Hamilton would disagree with your endoresement and there are a number of other examples where they have failed miserably as profit wins out over actually providing a safe service.

    As to CUPE anything I’ve read about the “No” side is they are lending support but it is still a grassroots organization run by citizens. With that get over your blind fear of organized labour (I’m not a member of CUPE but I also choose to listen to arguments from both sides without branding one as the mythical boogie man).

    If you have issue with the money being spent on the referendum how about calling out the city for spending in excess of 300 thousand dollars on advertising, without really providing accurate information as to the alternatives. All they have is a scare campaign based on a dollar figure they seemingly pulled out of the air (and yes I realize it came from Deloitte an organization which is part of a group with a mission to promote P3s which causes me to call into question any figure they put forward as extremely biased).

    You could further call out the city and politicians for the extra expense of the referendum as this issue did not suddenly pop-up and it could have easily been a part of the prior election campaign in Regina.

    As to cost why do we balk at the cost involved with a Waste Water Treatment Plant and look to getting into a 30 year agreement with a private corporation (to pay to operate and to provide them with profits) yet with the stadium for the city it was ‘no problem’.

    If you want the truth you can finally look to the city to release the reports and the studies without the majority of it being redacted.

  4. Alexandra – good that you are taking an interest. But I wish you would look deeper. I fear you’ve been mislead by of the city’s trickery.

    Ask any science prof or even the science students – water is a cycle. The waste water enters the lake that we draw our drinking water from. The city knows this but just started using the yukky word sewage to try and cloud the issue and confuse the public. Up until June, they also called it waste water. Ask yourself, or better yet, ask them why they suddenly switched to tricky wording.

    Check your water bill and you’ll see it includes charges for both supply and drainage. The city knows that every drop they supply will find it’s way back as sewage or drainage or what they’ve called ‘waste waste’ for over 100 years.
    The city is trying to privatize water service by hiding the plot behind the confusion of how the plant will be built. Its the same dishonest technique of how they are privatizng garbage under the disguise of recycling. Private company Loraas is now making millions off our garbage, which used to be non-profit.

    P3 water companies make on average 24% profit which equates to about 500 million for Regina. Currently our water is non-profit, so vote yes will save $500 million. Yet the city’s dishonest vote no campaign is highlighting the much less significant $50 million grant money.

    You’ve taken the initiative to write so I hope you’ll take more initiative to learn, and find out that turning half of our water service to private company will cost much more.

  5. Alexandra – the jobs is another half-truth told by the city to mislead you. They say the workers will keep their jobs. But they leave out the important parts which are that as soon as their contract expires, they are no longer city workers, but employees of the p3 private water corporation. Their job security and benefitsy will disappear and their wages will be cut. The number of jobs will also be slashed. This has happened in EVERY single p3 water privatization. Ask yourself, or better yet, ask your city why they are not telling you these important facts.

  6. The next message is to Wade. Are you the same Wade that is deputy mayor of the city? If so, you are the last person who should be calling anyone a liar.
    Here’s a question for you, please answer in public so Alexandra and everyone can see your response.
    Wade – how much profit will the p3 private water corporation be taking during the 30 year contract?
    So far you and the Mayor have kept all the numbers secret. And the documents you were forced to provide have been heavily blacked out to hide all the profits that you are offering to the private p3 water company!
    So Wade, as deputy mayor, tell us now how much that is, and tell us why you are being secretive with our money and our water.

  7. Finally a Carillon article I can agree with. Well researched and well written.

  8. a responsible citizen

    unfortunately this is another article that doesn’t look deeply enough at the problem our city faces. it doesn’t look at the fact that the city has measured public expense over a 4 year term and private expense over 30 years!? I mean hello?! if you know anything about finance, you’d know that whoever is doing the analysis of this project has the mathematical ability of a 9th grader! the second part of this is that the contract will allow the private company to walk out at anytime if the project becomes to much of an expense to them. these are the major issues and that isnt even half of all the problems with this deal that the city is trying to ram down our throats!

  9. Who knew there was only one person named Wade in the city!

  10. Bonnie I’m blown away that someone so condescending could be so wrong. Allow me to run a quick fact check:

    1. Regina’s waste water doesn’t end up anywhere near Buffalo Pound Lake where we draw our drinking water. Ever.

    2. “Sewage: the waste matter that passes through sewers.” “Sewage” and “waste water” are entirely interchangeable. I would encourage you to actually visit our existing waste water treatment plant, take a look at the stuff and try to describe it with words that aren’t “yukky”.

    3. I think you may be confused about how the recycling program works. Recycling USED to be purely private. You decided whether or not you wanted to pay for curbside pickup, and which company to use. The city now provides this service and a fee has been added to your taxes. The exact opposite of what you’re saying is true. The city does pay Loraas to physically carry out this service, but it’s (now) government controlled and operated.

    4. You seem to have a pretty good idea of how much a company would make in profit for somebody who claims not to have been provided with any information on the matter. You either know what you’re talking about (in which case the city isn’t being nearly as secretive as you claim), or you have no idea what you’re talking about and pulled a number out of thin air to support your argument.

    You’ve taken the initiative to write so I hope you’ll take more initiative to learn.

  11. a responsible citizen

    you obviously don’t get what the major issue is here! the fact of the matter is that #1 it’s not cheaper to go P3, #2 the city has failed to provide nonpartisan evidence that a P3 is the best option, and #3 that water is a cycle! kids learn that in elementary school! hate on the unions as much as you want, but keeping this completely public is saving us money and providing us the ability to have a state of the art facility!

  12. Perhaps there is, just struck me as interesting. Will either of the Wade’s provide the details of the secret 30 year water deal?

  13. There could be two Conrad Hewitt’s, the one who ran unsuccessfully as a hard line conservative in the last election, and the one posting hard line conservative falsehoods in this comment section.

  14. And there could even be two Alex Mortensens, the one we were proud of, who ran for the NDP and asked unions to support her career – and the Alex Mortensen who wrote this article bashing CUPE.

    U of S sister paper Sheaf had an article entitled “Student candidates balance classes, homework and door-knocking” which quoted Alex at the time: “Mortensen, a second-year political science and French double major, says she chose to run for the NDP because she believes “in equal opportunities and people benefiting rather than large corporations.”

    Unless it’s a different Alex, now she’s unwittingly acting as spokesperson for the a large water corporation.

  15. Sir, kindly drop the snarly attack of “if you know anything about finance.” The author has said her piece, she researched her article well and you are welcome to disagree with her. If you want to disagree with her on the mathematics than show her why she is mistaken without attacking her. Seriously, these kind of statements turn people off of politics.

  16. #1: That’s scientifically false Conrad, water is a cycle. Why do you think the federal government mandates waste water to be treated?
    #2: Why then did the city abrupty stop calling it waste water when they kicked off their million dollar propaganda campaign.
    #3: I’m not confused. Solid waste is now half privatized. Union workers pick up garbage, privatized non-union workers pick up the blue bins. Except the blue bin workers have low pay and benefits and no pension plan. Jobs are being killed, just slowly. Every resident is paying a hundred dollars extra per year forever and Loraas Corporation is making millions. Every resident must pay the mandatory fee even though the previous free market re-cycling was cheaper. That’s the exact trick being pulled with thewater plant. They want to privatize the waste water side, phase out the workers, and let a private company make hundreds of millions collecting higher mandatory fees.
    #4: The numbers are easy to estimate. But the better question is why is the city keeping them secret?

  17. To echo BIll’s comment, while it may be true that a 9th grader can see that paying more for a 30 year P3 will cost far more than the 3 year number being deceptively floated by the city, you shouldn’t demean or blame Alex as she’s responding to false information.
    She’s been duped by a very expensive misinformation campaign. The city deceptively hides the fact that the $276 per residence would disappear after 3 years and 2 months, while hiding the fact that the P3 large water corporation will charge a profit premium for 30 years.
    Conrad Hewitt demonstrates another case of being tricked by the city’s lies. He’s been duped into believing the city ‘controls and operates’ the recycling program when in fact it’s controlled and operated by the private Loraas corporation.
    We shouldn’t insult them for this as it’s not their fault they are being lied to. Instead we should educate them and hope that in the future they will dig deeper into what the politicians are saying and what’s behind the misinformation campaign their tax dollars are funding.

  18. Or, perhaps, she considers each issue on its own merits, rather than follow party lines on every matter.

  19. For anybody still reading this. Bonnie has no clue about water resources engineering. At all.