Lessons from Moncton’s water privatization experience

Ema Lui

In a recent CBC The Current radio interview, Elizabeth Brubaker, Environment Probe’s executive director, debated Council of Canadians’ Trade Campaigner Stuart Trew on water privatization in Canada within the context of the Canada-EU Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement.

In the January interview, Brubaker sang the praises of private sector participation in the water services sector. Brubaker claimed Public-Private Partnerships (P3) provided better opportunities to regulate industry because companies are under binding contracts. She also praised P3s for the “capital that private firms can invest,” funding that is not “available at the federal or provincial level” and for companies’ “expertise” and “efficiency.”

The example of Moncton

Moncton, a case study examined during The Current interview, entered into a P3 for their water filtration system with US Filter (which became Vivendi  in 1999 and Veolia in 2004) in 1998. There was a later attempt to enter into another P3 with the same company for the upgrading of the city’s water distribution, stormwater and sewer systems including pumping stations. CUPE raised awareness on the impacts of P3s and the deal was stopped. Moncton city council also commissioned an independent study showing that it was cheaper to keep the water distribution infrastructure public.

Read More: Lessons from Moncton’s water privatization experience

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