With the City of Abbotsford’s business case for a water project funding application now in the hands of PPP Canada, it is time for learning.
A decision on federal government funding is not expected until the end of June. Those with a vested interest (virtually all residents) in the proposal to create a public/private partnership for a new Stave Lake water supply and treatment plant, should educate themselves on both sides of the debate.
It’s not an easy undertaking, as there isn’t a host of operating Canadian projects like this one to which direct comparisons can be made.
Opponents point to American examples of water privatization, but much of the evidence offered up involves cities that have sold or leased civic systems to private corporations.
In Abbotsford’s case, the city maintains it would retain ownership of the water and treatment plant in a P3 agreement, with fees and service controlled by a 25-year contract.
Nevertheless, there are many questions to be objectively addressed.
Does the potential $66 million in federal funding justify paying a private company for services which the city’s own study indicates could be performed publicly at a lower cost?
Is a P3 project vulnerable to the private sector looking to cut corners in order to maximize profits?
Will a P3 agreement relieve both a measure of financial burden and all but eliminate risks to the city?
Does the nature of a P3, which involves a level of third party confidentiality, allow enough transparency for adequate public accountability?
Whether for or against, all should eventually have one thing in common – and that’s being as well-informed as possible, because ultimately it will be taxpayers who will decide via referendum this fall if a P3 project proceeds.