Municipalities Urge Ottawa Not To Tie Funding To P3s

From Lynn Perrin. Hooray for Wendy Bales! Canadian municipal governments are urging the federal government to help cover the costs of meeting new wastewater regulations, and that the funding should not be tied to participating in public-private partnerships (P3s).

The call comes from a resolution passed this weekend at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (FCM) annual conference, held May 31 – June 3 in Vancouver.

The annual conference brings together thousands of mayors, councillors, municipal officials and other stakeholders to discuss issues facing municipalities across the country.

Submitted by the Atlantic Mayors Congress, the resolution states that over $20 billion is needed by local governments in Canada to meet the new wastewater regulations introduced by the federal government in 2010. The resolution directs the FCM to urge provincial and territorial governments and the federal government to provide dedicated funding for local governments needing to upgrade wastewater systems to meet the new standards.

Furthermore, an amendment calling for this funding not to be conditional on municipalities participation in P3s was added during debate on the resolution. Wendy Bales, a director with the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) in British Columbia, moved the amendment over her long held concerns with using P3s for municipal infrastructure.

“I just wanted to make sure we keep hammering it at the federal government that grants shouldn’t be tied to P3s,” said Bales, who represents Hemlock Valley, Harrison Mills and Lake Errock in the FVRD.

Canadian municipalities seeking federal support to build or upgrade essential infrastructure – such as water and wastewater systems – are under growing pressure to enter into risky P3s, a form of privatization.
Bales says this worries her because in many cases the overall costs of P3s are higher than traditional public projects, and the people she represents shouldn’t be forced to blindly enter risky agreements.

“This is taxpayers money,” said Bales. “To be forced into an agreement that would cost more is just not right.”

Editor’s Note: The fact the City of Abbotsford wanted to tie funding for a new water supply which, it was later shown, the City didn’t need, to a P3 funding formula suggested by federal MP Ed Fast played a large part in the opposition to the plan which was eventually overturned by a factor of 75% to 25% in a referendum. For more info please see The Great Abbotsford Water Surplus Shortage

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