P3 water plan: Abbotsford election candidates weigh in

Council contenders weigh in on a public-private partnership to establish a new water source for Abbotsford.

  • Oct. 20, 2011 8:00 p.m.

by Melissa Welsh, Abbotsford News

While all of the council incumbents, with the exception of Coun. Patricia Ross, support a public-private partnership to establish a new water source for Abbotsford, challengers reached on Thursday had a varied stance.

Opposed to the plan are candidates Anne Graham, William Aird Flavelle, Daljit  Singh Sidhu, Terry Stobbart, Lynn Perrin, Vince Dimanno and Moe Gidda.

In favour is Doris Woodman-McMillan, while Henry Braun, Mark Rushton , Jati Sidhu and Kevin Chapman remain undecided.

For some of those opposed, the issue hinges upon the amount of water that the city says it requires, and the escalating cost of the P3 strategy.

Flavelle said phase one of the P3 project would allocate 280 million litres per day (MLD) for the winter season. But according to Flavelle’s research, Abbotsford’s average water consumption year-round is roughly 73 MLD. He also believes the cost of P3 will continue to increase during its start-up and continuing operation.

He added the city’s new radio read metres, which can detect leaks, and the new water billing system will help promote conservation and reduce water loss.

Whether Stave Lake should be utilized as a water source is not the issue, agree candidates Perrin and Stobbart, but rather, the city should make attempts to optimize existing infrastructure.

Stobbart also takes issue with the way that the P3 project has been communicated to the public, relating it to the HST referendum and how it has been presented  as a done deal.

She argues that until another plan is presented, conservation is the best way to go.

“Apparently there are 19 other options, as quoted by the city manager,” Stobbart said. “As a taxpayer I would like to see those options.”

While Woodman-McMillan approves of the proposed P3 plan, she also believes the public is feeling rushed to make a decision without being given all the information. However, she stressed that any further city development requires more water service.

“I would rather have a portion of that funded by the federal government rather than us paying all of it.”

The undecided are still weighing the pros and cons of the issue and will address their stance before election time.

Rushton said he agreed city expansion requires more water than Norrish Creek, Cannell Lake and groundwater wells can provide.

Jati Sidhu noted that without the P3 approach, a state-of-the-art hospital would not be possible, while Braun stated that the issue remains complex.

“This isn’t an easy answer. Yes, I could come up with an answer, and then people will want to know why. I need to know why first,” Braun said.

Candidates James Breckenridge and Dave Derkson could not be reached for comment by press deadline Thursday afternoon.

ALL MAYORALTY CHALLENGERS OPPOSED

The four candidates opposing incumbent George Peary in Abbotsford’s mayoral election are unanimous in opposing the proposed Stave Lake P3 water plan.

There are too many unanswered questions about the project, they say, and the city is using fear tactics to push the public into voting for the plan by contending the alternative is to run out of water.

Bruce Banman said he is not against a P3 partnership, but would favour a design/build plan, with operation of the water system remaining in private control. That could get Mission back as a partner in the project, he said.

Meghann Coughlan feels it is dangerous to have water in private control. She said when water prices and customer service are being considered, corporate shareholders should not be an issue.

Travis Daleman said rain catchment systems are an obvious partial solution to water shortages, given the amount of precipitation the Lower Mainland gets.

He wants to see the public made aware of all the options, and the referendum put off until after the municipal election on Nov. 19.

Gerda Peachey said a P3 deal is not publicly transparent, because of a corporation’s privacy rights. She said the city should design, build and operate the water system itself, taking advantage of low borrowing rates offered through the Municipal Finance Authority.

Are you in support of the city’s plan to proceed with a public/private partnership to develop a new water source at Stave Lake?

Mayoralty candidates

*George Peary – Yes

Bruce Banman – No

Meghann Coughlan – No

Travis J. Daleman – No

Gerda Peachey – No

Councillor candidates

*Les Barkman – Yes

Henry Braun – Undecided

Kevin Chapman – Undecided

Vince Dimanno – No

William Aird Flavelle – No

*Simon Gibson – Yes

Moe Gidda – No

*Moe Gill – Yes

Anne Graham – No

*Dave Loewen – Yes

*Bill MacGregor – Yes

Lynn Perrin – No

*Patricia Ross – No

Mark Rushton – Undecided

Daljit Singh Sidhu – No

(Jatinder) Jati Sidhu – Undecided

*John Smith – Yes

Terry Stobbart – No

Doris Woodman-McMillan – Yes

(* signifies an incumbent):

The following candidates could not be reached by press deadline.Their responses will be published in an upcoming issue: James W. Breckenridge and Dave Derkson