At the recent Mission all-candidates meeting there were a number of candidates, including current councillors, who were opposed to the ‘privatization’ of our water, yet ironically most of them were drinking bottled water from a private company.
I decided to investigate how Abbotsford residents have the opportunity to vote on their future water source and Mission residents are left out.
A close review of the April 4 council meeting minutes provided the answers. The meeting was a presentation of the Deloitte report and questions from the public. Having been a member of Mission council from 1999 to 2008, the speakers were all very familiar to me.
The first group speaking against were local and provincial union activists, mainly CUPE, whose stated mandate is to oppose private companies.
The second identifiable group were members of CAUSS, who have always been opposed to economic development in the form of Mission’s future housing in southwest Mission.
Mission council should have decided to get the opinion of the broader community in a referendum.
Sadly, four councillors in Mission (one whose election campaign was financed by CUPE) took the right for me to vote on how to spend my tax dollars away from me and my fellow taxpayers.
My interest in our joint water supply was intense during my nine years on council and as a member of the Abbotsford/Mission Water Commission.
There are many factors to consider including the safety of the water, financial and general maintenance. During my time serving on the water commission I was determined to avoid the situation that occurred in Walkerton, Ontario. That was a public utility, yet things went deadly wrong. Protocols around monitoring and testing for pathogens were lacking.
As a commission, we made certain the water system is constantly monitored and the private lab testing of the water for pathogens has the results reviewed by staff as well as a report to the commission to ensure the process was followed.
All the same rigid protocols can be included in the new P3 contract so we can continually be assured of good quality water.
P3s have been successful, especially when a team of skilled lawyers and engineers are in our corner ensuring the contract is carefully crafted to address the concerns of the residents.
The financials are clear that there is a saving of about $85 million over the life of the contract.
Sadly, that savings will go to the taxpayers in Abbotsford, while we in Mission didn’t get the same opportunity to vote in the referendum.
Now, we in Mission are going to be faced with much higher water bills without a chance to vote and use the P3 model to keep costs under control.
Abbotsford council got it right.