Can public utilities be accountable?

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Manitoba regulators have charged Winnipeg for polluting the Red River and for failing to report the pollution. In explaining the decision to prosecute, the province cited the need for accountability. But if the city can pass fines along to taxpayers or water customers, is it really accountable for its errors? Continue reading

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Don’t bottle 13-year-old’s water wisdom

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Adapted from the guest blog below, this op-ed in the National Post throws cold water on the Council of Canadians’ Blue Communities campaign. Essie Solomon argues that municipalities would be ill-advised to ban bottled water sales, reject privately funded and operated water systems, and deem water a human right. Continue reading

The flawed logic behind Blue Communities

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In this guest blog, Essie Solomon argues that municipalities that become Blue Communities do a disservice to their residents and the environment. Continue reading

Federal and provincial taxpayers to subsidize sewage treatment in Victoria

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The governments of Canada and BC have announced that they will foot almost two-thirds of the bill for a new sewage treatment system for Victoria. Such subsidies are inequitable, inefficient, and unnecessary. Continue reading

Debunking the myth of public-sector accountability

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Those who advocate purely public water and sewage utilities warn that private financing and operation impede transparency, diminish accountability, and undermine government regulation. They have it backwards: Public utilities have repeatedly shown themselves to be un-transparent and un-accountable. Continue reading

$1.2B in Sewage Treatment Upgrades for Winnipeg

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Water Canada reports that Winnipeg needs to find $1.2 billion for upgrades to its sewage treatment facilities. The article cites Environment Probe’s criticism of Winnipeg’s agreement with Veolia Water – an agreement that guarantees no private investment in the ailing sewage facilities. Continue reading

Privatizing water services

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CBC Radio’s “The Current” turns its attention to privatizing water and sewage services, engaging Environment Probe’s Elizabeth Brubaker and several others in a lively discussion about what greater private-sector involvement could mean for Canada. Continue reading

Support for public-private partnerships grows

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According to a recent poll, two-thirds of Canadians support public-private partnerships (P3s) for water treatment and sewage facilities. These numbers are up considerably from last year. Continue reading

The Privatization of City Services

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BNN’s “Headline” features a discussion of the privatization of city services, including water and sewage. Environment Probe’s Elizabeth Brubaker, CUPE’s Paul Moist, and Ontario Waste Management Association’s Rob Cook debate the merits of privatization. Continue reading

Saving every last drop of city’s water

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As the City of Toronto looks to plug its $774 million budget hole, it has kick-started a comprehensive service review. Writing in the Toronto Star, Elizabeth Brubaker and Benjamin Dachis propose that the service review consider the large potential savings from contracting out the water and sewage services that the city currently provides. Continue reading

Troubled Waters

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Veolia Water touts its sewage agreement with Winnipeg as a model for other communities. But Elizabeth Brubaker argues in the National Post that it would be a bad model, as it merely provides for "expert advice" on the design, construction and operation of Winnipeg’s sewage-treatment facilities. It brings no private investment, limits incentives and opportunities for savings, and blurs lines of accountability regarding costs and performance. Continue reading

A Bridge Over Troubled Waters: Alternative Financing and Delivery of Water and Wastewater Services

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In this Commentary, published by the C.D. Howe Institute, Elizabeth Brubaker writes that drinking water and sewage systems across Canada threaten public health and the environment. Municipalities lack the resources to correct utility failings. Private water and wastewater services providers are well positioned to help municipalities with needed capital and expertise. Engaged through competitive contracting and governed by performance-based contracts, private providers have incentives to find efficiencies and perform well. Continue reading

Winnipeg Signs 30-Year “Alliance” With Veolia

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Public Works Financing reports on Winnipeg’s 30-year contract with Veolia Water, under which the firm will advise the city on capital improvements to and operations of its sewage treatment facilities. The article notes Elizabeth Brubaker’s concerns about sewage treatment staff and management remaining under city control. Continue reading

Sewage plants below standard, report says

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Almost half of Quebec’s sewage-treatment plants fail to meet govern­ment requirements – a sign that dras­tic action must be taken to prevent further degradation of lakes and rivers, a report by an environmental group concludes.

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Without Obstruction, Diversion or Corruption: The Power of Property Rights to Preserve Our Lakes and Rivers

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A presentation to the Fraser Institute Student Seminar on Public Policy Issues, in Toronto, Ontario, on November 4, 1995.
 

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