The City of Regina announced in June that it would be modernizing its waste water treatment plant using a P3 funding model. This means that the Federal government would contribute $58.5 million and the rest would be covered by the city, province, and a private investment. From the surface, this doesn’t look like a bad idea, but of course, you can’t trust your democratically elected government now can you?
With the P3 model, our city will leave the operations of this plant in privatized hands for 30 years, “[t]he private sector will be responsible for designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining the new Wastewater Treatment Plant over a 30 year period.” That’s a long time to manipulate money out of Regina tax-payers. Throughout the summer there were a number of volunteers collecting signatures of those opposed to this funding model and calling for a referendum. Recently they brought forward their petition with a total of 24, 232 signatures only to be told this wasn’t good enough. A clerk from the city stated that there was missing information from many of the signatures collected, but the group responsible for collecting this signatures (thankfully) fought back, “Regina Water Watch contends the report produced by the City Clerk is an attempt to prevent a vote rather than a sincere attempt to ensure signatures meet the requirements outlined in The Cities Act, pointing to several instances of the Clerk’s attempts to roadblock the petition which include: inappropriate telephone calls and messages, the unilateral decision to invalidate signatures that do not have the year as part of the date, and the request to have the provincial government raise the petition threshold while signatures were being collected.”
With more signatures collected to call for this referendum than votes cast for our current Mayor, the city agreed to hold a vote for the future of the facility. Democracy was working! Then it all came tumbling down. Yesterday, billboards sprung up all over the city and robo-calls commenced as the city spends $340,000 in tax-payer dollars on an advertising campaign in an attempt to sway the vote in September. Massive signs reading, “Vote No to losing $58.5 million in federal funding” have covered our usual delightful “happy summer” and “buy this truck” billboards. Yes Regina, make it about money, not about the safety of our drinking water or the potential threat in having our water in private hands for the next 30 years.
News reports are now stacking up stating that this entire process of a referendum could now cost the city up to $900,000. It’s a slippery slope when you start tossing out dollar amounts without giving the entire story. Yes, it could very well end up costing this much, but thanks to CBC, we can break that down, “[t]he city will also roll out a public information plan about how, when and where people can vote — including print, radio and social media — that will cost $100,000 to $120,000, which will be included in that sum. Finally, the city is planning to spend $340,000 on a separate “vote no” campaign in an effort to defeat the referendum…At the special meeting Wednesday, council approved the spending for a referendum to be held Sept. 25. There were several options possible, based on how many polling stations and workers are hired, with the costs ranging from $300,000 to $550,000. The $550,000 option will pay for three polling stations in each of the 10 wards. The city says it wants to get 600 people to work at the stations.” This means that the city is spending almost a third of the estimated costs on the separate “vote no” campaign.
Our democratically elected municipal government is planning on spending $340,000 to try to sway a vote for their own interests. Then they can get this federal funding and agree to the privatization of our drinking water. This doesn’t sit well with me. Where in the world has the privatization of water actually been beneficial for inhabiting residents? This is just another reflection of the future of our city, province and country. They are all aligning together to completely screw people over in the name of the almighty dollar.
I’m so grateful for every single person who has worked diligently to fight against this P3 model. I’m grateful for anyone who stands up against our government with the best interests of their fellow neighbours in mind. If we can’t rely on our democratically elected officials to stand up for us (which we obviously can’t – not like I voted for them in the first place) like they are supposed to do, who else do we have?
Here’s some real information on the consequences of privatizing our water. This information is free. This blog is free. Posting it to my twitter account is free. Sharing it is free. So yes, I’m going to try to sway your vote to voting YES. It’s not going to cost you a thing and I promise you will thank me in the long run.