ABBOTSFORD – Calls for public disclosure on plans to privatize Abbotsford’s drinking water supply for the next 25 years were met with a stony silence from the Mayor and Council Monday.
There were no kudos, comments, questions, or answers from Mayor George Peary and his Council on any of the comments and concerns raised by Water Watch Mission-Abbotsford in a 10-minute presentation. Outside City Hall after the regular Council meeting, Peary was asked when the public could expect some answers. He replied “in due course.”
WWMA spokesperson Lynn Perrin made the presentation to Council asking for details and clarification on the proposed $300 million-Stave Lake P3 (public private partnership) project. Perrin covered several concerns including:
- Asking for support for a resolution from municipalities across British Columbia to be raised at the upcoming Union of BC Municipalities meeting that calls on the federal government to provide funding for public water infrastructure and delivery projects and “unhook” funding for water infrastructure and maintenance projects from P3s.
- Asking for clarification of any publicly-funded publicity plans for the Stave Lake P3 proposal. Perrin asked for a pledge to keep residents informed of the status of the P3 proposal and to consider other forms of funding. “We were promised a series of public hearings on this issue, but there haven’t been any…”
- Asking Mayor Peary about a recent poll by the City of Abbotsford residents. Perrin asked that the questions to be made public, as well as who commissioned the poll, who wrote the questions and who is paying for the survey. She added that “many respondents have told us that the questions were biased towards the P3 project.” The project must be approved by Abbotsford residents in a referendum in November.
Perrin also raised questions about the viability of water P3s in general citing other jurisdictions and environmental and health protection issues.
Perrin concluded that “Water is so important – it’s absolutely crucial to this community so please, please, please provide the information to the public and listen to the public and consult with the public. If you play a collaborative role you may find there’s a better way.”