Residents remain divided on Saturday’s Stave Lake water project referendum, according to a second Angus Reid poll r conducted for the city.
When respondents were asked how they were “currently thinking of voting” on the project, 42 per cent answered they would vote against (28 per cent definitely against and 13 per cent probably against), 37 per cent said they would vote in favour (16 per cent definitely in favour and 21 per cent probably). Twenty-two per cent were unsure (figures are rounded to the closest percentage point).
The referendum question asks voters for permission to borrow up to $230 million and enter into public-private partnership to create a new water source and treatment centre.
Pollsters then informed respondents about the $65.7 million of federal funding that is available and said without the Stave Lake project, residents would face more water rate increases as well as watering restrictions or bans. They were also told economic growth would be affected.
When again asked how they would vote, the responses changed.
This time 45 per cent voted in favour (18 per cent definitely and 27 per cent probably) while 43 per cent voted against (29 per cent definitely and 14 per cent probably) with only 12 per cent unsure.
During the first water poll in August, also conducted by Angus Reid, similar questions were asked and support for the project changed from 62 per cent to 47 per cent and then 45 per cent, depending on how the questions were worded.
Of those polled, 87 per cent said they are likely to vote in the election (57 per cent absolutely certain to vote and 30 per cent very likely) while eight per cent were not likely to vote and five per cent were unsure.
Respondents were given three possible situations regarding Abbotsford’s water supply and asked how big a concern they were. Eighty per cent were concerned that Abbotsford’s water rates would rise dramatically, 57 per cent were concerned the city would run out of water and 56 per cent were concerned watering restrictions would increase.
When asked specifically about the Stave Lake water project, the top concerns were that the project will not be delivered on budget (79 per cent); private business will play a bigger role in operating local water (68 per cent); the process will be too secretive (67 per cent); the project will have a negative effect on local wildlife (55 per cent); and the project will not be delivered on time (55 per cent).
Abbotsford’s water rates are going to rise by approximately 10 per cent each year, for the next five years.
When asked about those increases, 51 per cent responded they were not justified (27 per cent definitely not justified, and 23 per cent probably unjustified).
Forty-six per cent said it was justified (11 per cent completely and 35 per cent probably) and three per cent were unsure.
In his analysis of findings, included in the report to the city, Mario Canseco, vice-president of Angus Reid Public Opinion, noted that the key difference between this water poll and the one performed in August is that the “private business issue has become one of the three main concerns” rising from 58 per cent to 68 per cent.
The phone poll took place between Oct. 28 and Nov. 4 and surveyed 300 random Abbotsford residents. The margin of error is plus or minus five per cent.
Other questions posed to the public included:
n Would you say things in Abbotsford are going in the right direction, or are things currently on the wrong track? Right direction (61 per cent) ,wrong track (28 per cent), not sure (11 per cent).
n How closely have you followed the situation? (Abbotsford’s need for water) Closely (67 per cent), not closely (33 per cent).
n Do you agree with the following statements: I believe we will have a water shortage (57 per cent agree), I believe Stave Lake is the best option (52 per cent agree), I believe the city of Abbotsford has provided all the facts (46 per cent agree) I am satisfied with the involvement of private business in the operation of Abbotsford’s Stave Lake treatment plant (44 per cent agree), and I believe the delivery model is the most cost effective (43 per cent agree).
To view the entire poll results, go to the city’s website www.abbotsford.ca