Ian Crawford’s Presentation to the CRD CALWMC

2010 February 26, by Chapter Council

Feb. 25, 2010

Good Evening to all members of the Committee. I am Ian Crawford, a retired teacher, aircraft mechanic, community development worker and a big fan of clever design.

I know you work hard on behalf of all citizens of our district, – you receive the smallest portion of my tax dollar – and stretch it to provide the bulk of the services most valued by area citizens.

I think it would be more accurate to call this body the Core Area Liquid Resource Management Committee. You have considered several aspects of sewage as a resource but there is more. I will come back to that.

I want to tell you briefly, my five reasons for keeping the purchase of this major project public.

We must not allow the surrender of municipal authority to corporate control. Privatization of a municipal responsibly will put this service under the rules of NAFTA. Hidden in the 900 pages of the North American Free Trade Agreement are clauses that will put at risk, public control of all aspects of water removal and delivery in our municipalities. You have a major responsibility to protect municipal government from loss of power and erosion to corporations. Please consider seeking legal advice on this issue.

The 2nd consideration for me is that private corporations do not have to reveal information about their economic or environmental actions. Private control will mean decisions will be made in corporate head offices – not at city hall. We will not be privy to those meetings and decisions. Private corporations answer to their shareholders, not the taxpayer.

3rd Many studies show P3’s are from 30 to 130% more costly than the traditional public project acquisitions. I have not seen any evidence that shows a P3 that proved cost or risk effective for the taxpayer. When private corporations face difficult economic times they may seek bankruptcy protection to avoid their contractual commitments for continued services and environmental protection. Private financing is more expensive because lenders know corporate partners are risky – you just have to look at last year’s economic meltdown to see the risk.

4th Public operation offers local people good jobs in the community which enhances our area’s resilience. This is sensible sound governance and is money well spent.

5th We must remain as flexible as possible and not lock ourselves into decades long contracts with private corporations. Loading inflexible long-term debt onto our children denies them the opportunity to shape their future community. I think our young people need to have the opportunity and flexibility to find ways to put our liquid waste to better use.

I have two short stories on flexibility. Forty years ago I worked with the Canada-BC Okanagan Watershed Study. Two cities made decisions about sewage.

Pentiction was sold a tertiary treatment plant which was costly to capitalize and operate. The solids were removed and the effluent a was pumped into a canal that drained to Skaha Lake. Within a few years, bathers at the northern beach contracted skin rashes. Health Authorities posted the beach “off limits”. The nitrogen rich effluent caused so much growth of plant life that fishermen and boaters were thwarted – Bad for business. Pentiction Businesses petitioned to have the weeds removed by a mechanical harvester, at an ongoing cost to the taxpayer.

The city councillors in Vernon at the north end of Okanagan Lake developed a plan to use secondary treatment and then sprayed the liquid onto fields. This produced two gorgeous alfalfa crops a year – a boon for the taxpayers and the environment.

I was fortunate to visit China in the last century. I saw first hand how the Chinese people have been feeding themselves on the same lands for forty centuries. They recycle their sewage to their soils. They are cognizant of the health hazards and take the necessary steps to neutralize health risks. Canadian fertilizers are produced from fossil fuels. With peak oil close at hand we might be wise to examine how to enhance our fertilizer needs.

In conclusion

Please make wise decisions about financing this project, one that keeps control in municipal hands, not with an international corporation, and one that allows flexibility for future generations to benefit from this resource.

We citizens want our municipal government to stand up and say no to the pressures of the senior governments to enter into P3 agreements.

I appreciate your good management and hard work in making this part of Canada such a wonderful place to live.

Thank you.