EDITORIAL: Understanding the issues

A recent Angus Reid poll revealed that more than half of the 300 respondents had little to no awareness of the water issue on which they’ll be asked to cast referendum ballots Nov. 19.

It’s not entirely surprising.

The proposal of a public-private partnership in the creation and operation of a new water source for the City of Abbotsford is complex, and awash in statistics, politics, ideology and rhetoric.

In this issue, The News continues its ongoing coverage of the controversial issue, with the city’s explanations of how and why this option is being pursued, and the views of some who oppose it.

It’s hoped that readers will take the time to absorb at least some of the information offered. There is indeed a great deal of it to take in.

And ultimately, there may not be simple answers to what seem to be simple questions.

Who would the city partner with?

That’s not yet known, and won’t be unless the referendum passes, and bids are invited from the private sector.

What are the conditions of the contract with the private partner?

Again, that won’t be clear until that partner is found, and a contract is negotiated. That could be years away.

Can a contract be bulletproof in terms of protecting a public resource from private control? As one expert says, much is dependent on the conditions of the contract.

How much would a P3 project cost?

As you’ll read today, it depends on a wide variety of figures and projections.

The city is putting forth some very optimistic figures, including $51 million in “grants” and “recoveries.” Will those be realized? Perhaps, and maybe not. If the latter, the costs of a P3 project rise significantly.

Nonetheless, it’s up to taxpayers to become informed, ask their questions, weigh the answers, and vote accordingly.

To go to the ballot box knowing little or nothing about this issue would be a travesty.