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Council says nay to water privatization

City council has taken a stand against privatization of water and wastewater services, which two local organizations say could result from a trade deal now being negotiated between Canada and the European Union.

“We are concerned that Guelph not go down the road to privatization,” says a letter to council sent jointly by Wellington Water Watchers and the Guelph chapter of the Council of Canadians.

“The Canada-EU Comprehensive, Economic and Trade Agreement that is being negotiated by the federal government may make public utilities a target for multinational corporations,” their July 20 letter says. “Please take a stand now for the future of our city.”

The letter was sent after a 13-year-old Kingston girl, who is campaigning across the province for water protection, appeared before a Guelph council committee earlier this month seeking support for such things as banning the sale of bottled water in city facilities. The committee didn’t back that idea.

When the committee’s report came to council Monday, Coun. Lise Burcher proposed that council pass a motion saying Guelph opposes privatization of water and wastewater services and wants delivery of these services to remain in the public domain.

After debate about whether this would preclude the possibility of public-private partnerships in the future, council passed her motion on a 9-2 vote.

Mayor Karen Farbridge, who backed the motion, said it doesn’t rule out the sort of public-private partnerships that the city entered into with a company that built and is running the city’s new composting plant. However, the motion sends a message that Guelph “will not support the wholesale transfer of the service to the private sector,” Farbridge said.

Council also passed a motion by Coun. Leanne Piper calling on the two senior levels of government to begin building a national water-infrastructure fund.

Council also passed three statements that had earlier won the support of its planning & building, engineering and environment committee. They assert that access to clean water is a fundamental human right, that the two senior levels of government should enshrine water as a human right in provincial and federal law, and that the federal government should support the recognition of water as a human right in international law.

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