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New Abbotsford mayor endorses lobby to sever P3 strings from federal water money

Bruce Banman watches the election results come in with his grandchildren. - John Morrow photo
Bruce Banman watches the election results come in with his grandchildren.
— image credit: John Morrow photo

Newly elected Mayor Bruce Banman said it “makes sense” for Mission and Abbotsford to work together on a new water source that would service both communities.

Now that the Stave Lake public-private partnership (P3) referendum has been defeated, Banman feels both sides could return to the table. Mission was originally going to partner with Abbotsford on the water supply, but decided it didn’t want to be part of a P3 project.

“I think we’d be crazy not to consider that. Mission and Abbotsford have done a lot of joint projects together in the past ... I see no reason why we wouldn’t open up that discussion and see if we can’t work something out.”

Funding any new water plan will be a key consideration. The federal government’s $65.7 million offer is now off the table, as it was only available if the P3 project was approved.

The District of Mission has sent a letter to the prime minister requesting that future funding be given equal consideration between P3  and non-P3 infrastructure projects.

It’s an initiative that Banman fully endorses.

“I think it’s a heck of a great idea ... It is the citizens of Canada’s money to begin with, we paid into it. The federal government decided to put strings attached to this particular money, I guess they could decide to remove the strings if they wished.”

Abbotsford MP Ed Fast said he can’t comment on future funding.

“There is now a new mayor, there is one new city councillor – they are going to have to come up with a plan going forward for water for Abbotsford.

“And until I see that plan, it is going to be very difficult for me to comment on exactly what funding, if any, is going to be available,” said Fast.

He said the federal government is focused on balancing its budget by 2015 and every department is finding efficiencies and controlling spending.

“There are no grandiose plans right now for new spending programs.”

Considering the global economy, he said they have to “be responsible with spending.

“I can’t anticipate what opportunities might arise in the future,” said Fast.

However, he did say he will continue to work for Abbotsford.

Banman believes Mission and especially Abbotsford’s longtime support for the Conservative party will help make that funding a reality.

“I’m sure that Mr. Fast does not want to say no to us ... he wants to do everything he can to help us solve this problem,” said Banman.

While he has not yet spoken to Mission mayor-elect Ted Adlem, Banman plans to build the relationship quickly.

“I desperately would like to speak with him and get together with him.

“We’re going to be neighbours and we need to get to know one another.”

Janet Chalmers, a member of Water Watch Mission-Abbotsford, said her group will now encourage the incoming mayors to jointly lobby the federal government to fund a non-P3 water solution.

“That is primarily what the vote ‘no’ was.

“We’re not saying no water [project], we’re saying go back and get money that has no strings attached for the operation of the water,” she said.

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