The Victoria Council of Canadians expresses concerns over CRD Biosolids Privatization

2012 July 19, by Chapter Council


Contact: Bharat Chandramouli.


The Greater Victoria area will finally go ahead with the building of secondary sewage treatment, thanks to a $782 Million funding arrangement between the federal government, provincial government and the Capital Regional District (CRD) announced on Tuesday. The Victoria Chapter of the Council of Canadians (CoCVic) is pleased that all levels of governments have kept part of the the project (the sewage treatment) under public ownership, acceding to the wishes of a majority of people in Greater Victoria and the resolutions passed by the CRD in 2010.

However, CoCVic would like to express its strong displeasure at the unnecessary and expensive decision to split the project into two and fund the solid waste-to-energy operation as a Public-Private “Partnership” (P3).

“At a time when public financing costs are very low, P3 make little economic sense”, says Bharat Chandramouli, co-chair of the Victoria Chapter of the Council of Canadians.  When we don’t give our elected officials any more than a 3-5 year “contract”, it is unwise public policy to give a private monopoly provider a 25 year contract. A contract of this length gives future CRD boards and area councils little flexibility to react to changes and advances in technology.

While proponents of P3s claim to provide cost savings to governments, or to transfer risks. these claims have not been borne out in reality. Vancouver transit is a recent example. The publicly funded Millennium line was finished in less than a 1/3 the time it took the P3 Canada Line. Paris, France, the pioneer of water infrastructure privatization, brought its water back into public ownership 2 years back with lower rates, better performance and increased satisfaction 1.

The provincial and federal governments’ ideological and dogmatic insistence on introducing public-private partnership unnecessarily complicates the CRD’s municipal waste handling system. Instead of one closed loop where any savings/revenue from operating a waste to energy plant can defray the costs, or increase the efficiency of sewage treatment, we will have two separately managed entities operating under different mandates. This may benefit the private operator of the energy plant, but it is hard to see where the savings/efficiencies in this arrangement are for the taxpayer. A competitive-bid contract to design and build the plant would have been more appropriate.

Public services and infrastructure are best financed and delivered by the public sector. Private industry has a key part to play in its traditional role of designing and constructing public infrastructure under contract. But expanding these deals to include private financing and operations makes them much more complicated, expensive, and risky. Canadians need more public investment to rebuild our economy – but they can’t afford more expensive, unaccountable, and risky public-private partnerships 2.


  1. Paris Water Back in Public Hands – CUPE –
  2. The Problem with Public-Private Partnerships -CCPA