CUPE ad latest shot fired in sewage treatment plant referendum

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July 29, 2013 - 12:32pm
A partial scan of a CUPE ad concerning the sewage treatment plant referendum
A partial scan of a CUPE ad concerning the sewage treatment plant referendum

CUPE Local 21 is getting into the campaigning around Regina’s upcoming referendum, which concerns the public-private partnership (P3) funding model for the city’s new sewage treatment plant.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 21 branch took out full page ads in both Regina's Leader Post and Saskatoon's Star Phoenix to call on voters to "keep water public." Pictured underneath, a little girl is standing by a running tap holding a glass of water. The full text reads:

"Each and every day, we rely on public drinking water and publically-owned and operated wastewater treatment. It's an important part of daily life, and something we just can't live without.

"Yet, municipalities are pressured to privatize key water infrastructure through public private partnerships or P3s as a condition to receive Federal Government grants.

"We can't afford to lose control and ownership of a life-sustaining resource. Water belongs to us all, and it's just too important to be handed over to a profit-making corporation.

"Let's protect public water for our future."

The public vote will deal strictly with the sewage plant. It does not involve the water treatment plant that is responsible for the water that comes out of our taps. Council members at a special meeting debating the petition that aimed to trigger a binding public vote were adamant that there's a distinction between drinking water and sewage treatment.

Jim Holmes speaks for Regina Water Watch, the group comprised of CUPE executives and members and local environmental activists that was behind the initial petition. The ad came as a complete surprise to him, though he backs the message. He believes it doesn’t matter whether it gets flushed or put in a glass for drinking, all water is essentially the same.

"There’s this funny idea that wastewater is not water," Holmes said. "In a very real sense all water is wastewater.

"This idea that somehow you can separate the two seems to me to be misleading."

But Mayor Michael Fougere said the two are separate.

"They’re quite separate indeed. We’re talking about wastewater, again sewage treatment, not about drinking water. They’re very, very different," the mayor clarified.

Fougere believes those who glance at the ad may be left scratching their heads over what's at issue.

"They may be confused by it because again the referendum is going to be about wastewater, about sewage, not about drinking water."

CUPE representatives haven't yet returned News Talk Radio's calls requesting comment.

The referendum should happen sometime this fall.

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