Doing the P3 project math

So do the math – as only Abbotsford council can.

So do the math – as only Abbotsford council can.

The Stave Lake project in the city’s Master Water Plan was to cost $209 million for a 200 million litre per day (MLD) plant.

Now, after consultants have laboured and charged hard for 18 months, there are two costs: $315 million for the traditional construction, and $291 million for the P3 construction  for a 100 MLD plant. Both of the revised estimates would make this project more costly than others considered in the city’s plan.

It appears that P3 contractors are smarter and more efficient than traditional contractors. However, there is a problem. Comparisons have shown that the operational cost for the P3 project are $1 million per year higher than the owner operated project.

Must be time to do an economic analysis and comparison and come up with a present value. Let’s project a $62-million grant for the P3 project. Now press the enter key, and lo and behold, the P3 project is the winner.

Looks very nice for the Abbotsford taxpayer, but guess where the $62 million is coming from? Right again, it comes from your federal tax pocket, but fortunately it is shared with a lot more people, so that should be easy to sell.

The city has embarked on its program to sell the Stave Lake water supply project to its citizens, and it did it in fine style. First, a media event at one of the local greenhouses where the proponents, along with their group of a dozen paid young cheerleaders, tried to make the case that agriculture, as indeed the entire community, needs the water since we are quickly running out and there will be a shortage in just a few short years.

The problem with this argument is that very few agricultural operations actually use the city’s treated water because it is too costly, and secondly we are not running out of water. The city’s wells are producing more water than they did several years ago, and Norrish Creek and Cannell Lake are producing as much water as always.

The only way the present population could run out of water is if we ran out of rainfall – droughts are possible, but it is not likely that the Fraser Valley will turn into a desert.

Next up, the city decided to prepare the kickoff to its public relations campaign during a bylaw reading at a committee meeting of council to ensure the public can view, but not participate, in the debate. Indeed, one of the councillors commented that they have been elected by the public, and therefore should be blindly trusted to make the $300 million decision on their own.

There are alternatives for the city’s future water supply which would cost the taxpayers less than a  Stave Lake P3 project. Abbotsord and Mission will not run out of water and the sky will not stop delivering rainfall if the voters reject this thinly disguised bid, aided by all three levels of government, to benefit not the local taxpayers, but large multinational P3 corporations.

Ed Regts