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November 2, 2011

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District pressures Ottawa on P3 rules

CHILLIWACK—Fraser Valley communities are pressuring the provincial and federal government to offer alternatives to P3 (public private partnership) funding.

Wendy Bales, Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) Area C Director, moved a motion last week for the board to contact the government requesting that funding be made available for non-P3 water infrastructure projects. Ottawa has insisted that all federal water be tied to P3 projects.

Bales explains that “water is a human right, it is a precious resource and we should not be giving away control of our water to a private company. If there is government funding available through a P3, surely there should be funding for a public project.”

Neighbouring Mission has decided to lobby Ottawa directly and through Conservative Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission MP, Randy Kemp, for alternatives to P3 funding.  

Mission had considered a joint P3 with Abbotsford, but backed out after major privatization concerns. Mission Mayor James Atebe, says the district is exploring other options and that he is still “doing his homework” on the issue.  Community activists say the best solution is a regional system.

Abbotsford residents will vote in a Nov. 19 referendum to decide if they will enter into a 30-year P3 drinking water supply deal with a private partner.  The City of Abbotsford is spending more than $200,000 to convince citizens to privatize their water.  

The P3 option offers residents only one choice for future water supply-the only option expensive enough to attract a private P3 operator.

Opponents to the P3 plan point out that the more economical, more transparent and, more responsible “design/build” option was not even considered. They say a no vote in the referendum will give the community time to study and choose the best option for Abbotsford’s future.

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