Abbotsford’s P3 water plan still active, despite Mission response

Mission council has declined a request to send a letter to P3 Partnerships Canada in support of Abbotsford’s bid to develop an additional water source at Stave Lake.

Mission staff, who recommended council grant the request, said the letter isn’t an endorsement, but an acknowledgement that Mission would not object to allowing services in the district’s right-of-ways.

“Our position is very clear; we don’t support the P3 project,” said Mission Mayor James Atebe.

Not wanting to prejudice further planning and consultation requirements, Mission council voted unanimously Tuesday night to simply receive Abbotsford’s request.

But the decision does not put an end to the P3 debate.

“If they chose to receive the request, then it may be brought up again,” said Tracy Kyle, Abbotsford’s director of water and solid waste.

Abbotsford can still proceed with its water supply plan.

If Abbotsford chose to legally create a utility, Mission would be unable to deny access to the water or block construction of water lines through the district.

But Kyle said there are no plans to go down that road.

“Our first choice is to work cooperatively with Mission.”

Abbotsford Mayor George Peary said he didn’t see Mission’s decision to receive the letter request as a negative.

“They have not responded … we are waiting for them to make a decision,” he said.

“They are still our partners. We need water and they need water.”

Peary said he will wait for the district to respond in due course, and say whether they “will be obstructive or not.”

“We have other options available to us,” said Peary.

Atebe said his council was surprised to get the letter request, calling it “premature.” But he did say the two communities need to continue talking.

“Abbotsford is a friend of Mission’s. For decades we have worked together … sometimes we don’t agree, but this is one of many issues,” said Atebe.

The P3 water project was originally a joint venture between the two cities, creating a new water supply at Stave Lake in Mission, along with a pump station and treatment plant. The new source would serve both communities and cost approximately $300 million. If the cities decided to build it as a P3 project, the federal government could provide up to 25 per cent funding (about $72 million).

However, protests against the concept of a public-private partnership convinced Mission council to vote against the plan.

Abbotsford chose to proceed solo with the P3 project on a slightly smaller scale ($284 million).

Kyle said PPP Canada has received the city’s proposal and is currently looking over the business plan.

“They have … barraged us with questions.”

PPP Canada is set to discuss the application during its June 8 board meeting and Kyle expects to have an answer by the end of June.