Michelle Coburn’s Presentation to the CRD CALWMC

2010 February 27, by Chapter Council

February 25, 2010

Michelle Coburn

Yesterday’s news included an item re the apology from Mr. Toyota- CEO of Toyota . He spoke before the U.S. Congress to apologize for the consequences of the manufacture by his company of faulty vehicles and the insecurity, accidents and recalls surrounding the product that bears his name. He said that this happened a result of too rapid expansion but more tellingly as he stated it was a consequence of prioritizing profit over the safety of Toyota customers.
A few days ago in an editorial in the Victoria Times Colonist it was pointed out that in the creation of the B.C. Ferry Company in 2003 a contract was drawn up that at no times includes information that states “There is no requirement or even provision, for the interests of ferry customers and local communities to be considered in setting rates or B.C. Ferries direction” In other words the profits “could be at the expense of the public service goals of the ferry system, local communities and taxpayers” .

I am here not a member of some special interest group. I do not have a profit motive, a political objective or a personal gain to make by becoming informed about the work this committee and staff are doing regarding the Procurement of a plan to develop the infrastructure project around sewage treatment. I am concerned about the future of the environment and the world my children and grandchildren will inherit. The people I have met and conversations that have evolved around water and environmental issues are wide ranging and not at all what I expected to become involved in three and a half years ago when we moved to back to Victoria after 40 years in Toronto. But I met Dorothy Clippingdale who was trying to get interested people together with a concern focused around water issues here. And so I am here to take advantage of the opportunity offered by you to comment on the procurement plans you are developing re sewage treatment. Yesterday I was present and did get the impression that not only are you moving forward in this area but it does seem that the work presented to the public around site selection is still partly a work in progress and I only hope the glacial speed of this project does not mean it will not happen in my lifetime.

I have used the internet to research the players in this project- stakeholders who have profit as their driving motive and find it somewhat concerning that the province- particularly through Partnerships B.C. has a huge amount of control over the process you are supposedly using our tax dollars to pay for. I learned that it was established to promote P3s for large infrastructure projects the province contributes to. I learned its CEO gets a bonus for every P3 project signed. – will it (partnerships B.C.)really help you to draw up a good contract for a Public option when it has as its mandate and is rewarded when the P3 option gets signed? I also learned that Ernst and Young ,who are doing the procurement plan and have their own interest in P3s , were on a list of 4 similar firms you were given to choose from by the province to develop this plan . I am sure since the CRD is paying for this business case the report is made to you but there appears to me that there is a perception of a biased report and I wonder who is presenting a business case for a Public plan. As the ferry service has declined and is affecting us on the island I am concerned that the a profit motive may drive the procurement plan and at the open house with the opportunity to see the plans laid out it was difficult to get a clear sense of options and costs when considering that site selection and actual how and what will be done is still unresolved. I realize there is a peer review panel and looked up the members- their biographical profiles are not without expertise and yet I do have a few concerns when I read one worked for 18 years for Ernst and Young and would have been happier not to have seen that apparent closeness, though it could of course be beneficial for communication also and the peer review .

I want to refer back to my two opening points. First there is nothing wrong with profit. There is a difference when it is a community utility that is caring for our Liquid waste treatment and the linkage to water cannot be severed totally from that.There is a distinct benefit for the local economy when the CRD hires locally based contractors to work on their projects they are part of who we are and accountable to us as neighbours unlike a large offshore corporation who return profits to their shareholders. Permanent employees of the CRD deliver us safe water I trust them to do the same with the sewage treatment structures. I would like to see the project done in a total- traditional design and build model but the control of this must be here and in your hands. That contracting will be complex and require expertise is obvious, that profit driven large companies from offshore with a duty to shareholders and personal gain for company executives will lead, I can only believe, to the advantage being not for the local people and the contracts will reflect that. In my learning about governments of the ilk that we call neo-liberal in this global world it has been helpful to see the pressures from the provincial and federal governments you face are not unique . Good governance and wide management of our water resources (of which this liquid waste management plan is a part )will lead to safety and control remaining in public hands only if the planned project is moved forward by you as a Public not for profit utility. The contracts and regulations will be for ours and future generations to modify as knowledge and research develops, local contractors and our educational institutions can benefit because they can be active stakeholders and will be returning to the community in which they live the benefits they may accrue. Knowledge from the poor contract between B.C. ferries and its real clients should be a warning, knowledge of the consequence of Toyota can tell us that profit before safety of your product can be the consequence of large for profit driven companies. I have spoken to many people with the common response being Sewage treatment and the water it connects with must be kept in Public hands.