Oct 03, 2011

Municipalities show strong support for public water

BURNABY—Municipal leaders in B.C. see the value in keeping water public.

A resolution passed at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference calls for the federal government to fulfill its commitment to replace and reinvest in public water and waste water infrastructure.

British Columbia’s municipal leaders voted, overwhelmingly, in favour of a “Blue Communities” resolution. The resolution asks for the federal government to provide funding for public water infrastructure and delivery projects and “unhook” funding for water infrastructure and maintenance projects from public-private partnerships (P3s).

Initiated by the Burnaby City Council, this resolution shows dedication from municipalities all over the province to keep water local and support the idea of developing more Blue Communities.

A Blue Community embraces the idea that water belongs to no one and is everyone’s responsibility.  Public systems are known to be more cost-efficient, accountable, flexible and environmentally-sustainable. Keeping water local is vital in developing Blue Communities all across B.C.

“Almost every municipality in B.C. operates and owns quality water and waste water treatment systems,” said CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill. “We have highly trained, skilled workers who provide us with an important service, we must protect water as a public service and keep this service local.”

There are three things a municipality must do in order to be recognized as a Blue Community. First they must recognize water as a human right. Secondly, ban the sales of bottled water in public facilities and at municipal events. And lastly, commit to promoting publicly financed, owned and operated water and wastewater services.

Four B.C. communities have already become Blue Communities. Burnaby became B.C.’s first Blue Community in March, Victoria followed suit in June and most recently Port Alberni and Mission.

“It’s not surprising that Burnaby was the first to sign-on to the Blue Communities Initiative – we have a determined workforce and a supportive council,” said CUPE 23 president Rick Kotar. “It’s heartening that the vast majority of other communities in B.C. are considering the move to Blue - what will make it work is when those communities follow through and pass the resolution locally.” 

The Blue Communities initiative is a joint venture between the Council of Canadians and CUPE.

Many local officials have gotten on board to support local water and stop P3s from coming to B.C., however Monday morning the City of Abbotsford launched a campaign to promote the Stave Lake P3 water project. The City of Abbotsford is attempting to privatize drinking water delivery in Abbotsford for the next 25 years, going against numerous other initiatives already put in place across B.C. to maintain public water. A referendum on this issue will be held as part of the municipal elections in Abbotsford on November 19, 2011.

COPE 491