Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) - BC

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) - BC

August 10, 2011 17:23 ET

Sooke Council shortens private sewage deal

SOOKE, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Aug. 10, 2011) - The Sooke District Council has extended its contract with a private sewage company for five years instead of 21 years. The decision came at a Council meeting Monday night despite calls for a review of wastewater services that would consider other options including an in-house system.

At the Monday Council meeting, Sooke Water Watch and other groups including CUPE had a few choice words for Council including "public", "transparent" and "local".

Council had originally tried to give Edmonton-based EPCOR a 21-year sweetheart deal, but failed to garner enough community support once the details were made public. The current EPCOR contract was due to expire at the end of September.

District staff offered four possibilities at the Monday meeting including the five-year deal, a two-year extension of services with EPCOR, looking into in-house public services or holding a referendum. Council immediately opted for the five-year deal. District staff did say it would negotiate an opting-out clause in case the new Council to be elected in November decides there are better sewage options.

Council ignored the other options, including a proposal made by Sooke resident Don Brown to set up a steering committee and use local consultants to look into all the possibilities including a community co-op run sewage system or a municipal in-house system.

CUPE 374 spokesperson Trevor Davies pulled no punches in describing the downside of working with private corporations to provide public services. "Corporations are required to maximize profits whenever possible. The social values of this community will come second - no matter what." CUPE 374 represents Sooke municipal workers.

"In Sooke, Council has tried to use the alternate approval process to sign the longest term contract a municipality is legally allowed to sign. I don't expect a revolution of thought," Davies said, adding, "What I hope for is the evolution of an idea that is rooted in almost every community: the best local services for the public, are by the public so take the opportunity to build Sooke, not sell it off."

Sooke Water Watch coordinator Dan MacBeth and Keep It Public coordinator Gilles Larose pointed to other jurisdictions dealing with sewage issues, including the fight for public sewage treatment in Victoria's Capital Regional District. "That battle lasted four and half years and at the end it was crystal clear that the people of Victoria want public, accountable, transparent running of a public service," said Larose.

The majority of councilors and Mayor Janet Evans all said they had really wanted the 21-year private deal. Councilor Herb Haldane was the lone dissenting voice. Haldane said he would support a referendum on the issue adding, "I don't believe the system was checked out enough and I don't agree that it was transparent enough." Haldane added that "the next Council should have a say in this – that would be more democratic." Evans said she "would like to go to the polls and let the people decide – but I'm afraid of what could happen."

Contact Information

  • Murray Bush
    Communications Representative