PSAC supports returning Moncton water services to public control

PSAC supports returning Moncton water services to public control

The situation at the Moncton Water Treatment Plant, one of contracting-out of government jobs, needs our full attention. As a public sector union, we always oppose the privatization of government services and actively support reintegrating those that have been privatized back into the public sector.

PSAC Convention resolutions

Our commitment to opposing contracting-out was reinforced at the 2015 PSAC National Convention with the passage of Resolution NEGO-059, which states “Be it resolved that the PSAC launch a campaign opposing the Contracting-Out of our jobs and expose the pitfalls to the employer and to the Canadian Public.”  This commitment was reaffirmed at our 2018 PSAC National Convention with the passage of Resolution GEN-083A, which states “Be it resolved that the PSAC fight the loss of federal, provincial and territorial public service jobs by launching a fightback campaign against current and future Private Public Partnerships (P3s) and privatization of federal, provincial and territorial public service jobs for all its members.”

Water is a human right undermined by privatization

Ready access to safe, clean, affordable drinking water is a fundamental human right, as recognized by the United Nations.  In Canada, municipalities have the responsibility of providing drinking water to their residents.

The City of Moncton, in 1998, was correct to build a water treatment facility, recognizing the wholly unacceptable state of drinking water in the city. Unfortunately, by using a P3 model to do this, the city paid $8.5 million more than had the project been undertaken as a public project. Now that the contract is ending, it is time to turn this around.

Across the globe, municipalities are taking back control of water delivery systems after years of privatization have shown governments that the risks, and costs, are too great. In Paris, France, Hamilton, ON, Atlanta, Georgia,  Terrassa, Spain, Port Hardy, B.C.,  water services have been returned to public service management.

In Paris, at the end of a private water contract with Veolia, the city has seen a cost decrease of more than 8%, and an increased ability to ensure accessibility for financially struggling residents, along with an increase in policy transparency. Veolia, the company in this example, that currently provides water treatment to the City of Moncton under the soon-to-expire contract, has also been implicated in the devastating water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

In Hamilton, attempts to maximize profits by reducing staff and using outdated equipment, resulted in catastrophic raw sewage spills into homes and into Lake Ontario.

Water systems should remain in public hands

It is important to note that PSAC’s support of the initiative to remunicipalize the Moncton drinking water system is not about whether one company or another has a poorer track record on providing clean, safe, drinking water, at a price that is affordable. It’s about the fact that any and all of them have the potential to fail in ways that undermine public health and the universal human right to accessible clean, safe, drinking water. Whether Veolia, or Suez, or Acciona Agua, these are private corporations whose primary motive is profit. Bankruptcy, insolvency, corruption, and a simple lack of profitability have all resulted in the failure of private-public ventures.

Ultimately, the contracting government will continue to underwrite the risk of the venture, and could be liable for the added costs, and to pick up the pieces, from failures on the part of the company. We see this time and again, including very current examples of the insolvency of mega-corporation Carillion , and the refusal of Omnitrax to repair privatized rail lines, leaving the residents of Churchill isolated from the rest of the country.

The City of Moncton will always hold the responsibility to provide clean, safe, drinking water to its residents, and will underwrite the risk inherent in any private scheme. The surest way to eliminate this risk, is to keep the provision of drinking water solely within the public service.

Let’s take back control of our water!