Mission council’s attempt to privatize operation of a new water supply at Stave Lake to facilitate future growth was defeated Monday April 4/11 after CAUSS and other concerned citizens barraged council with numerous concerns and questions. Speaker after speaker addressed council to oppose the proposal, which would have given an unknown corporation control of the operations for 25 years or even longer. Mike Gildersleeves pointed out that the costs of water to residents would be tied to the cost of hydro, as BC hydro owns the water rights for the Stave. This, at a time when hydro rates are skyrocketing means higher water costs for residents. It was revealed at the meeting that council was preparing to move forward with the proposal even though the business case, outlining the risks and costs to Mission, had not yet been completed for this $300 million dollar project! Members of CUPE pointed out that private operations of the plant would cost more than $1,000,000 more per/year than public operations. Others pointed out that an environmental assessment had not been completed on the project despite the importance of the Stave River to wild salmon.
Mission staff admitted that our town does not have the money to pay our share of the project, and therefore was preparing to enter into the P3 deal in order to secure some funding from P3 Canada. If future development cost charges did not cover the costs of the proposal, the burden would be on Mission and Abbotsford residents. Was it a coincidence that the proposed water line does not connect with our existing system but takes a turn west to Silverdale? This would save Silverdale developers millions and force existing residents to subsidize sprawl.
At 10:50, after almost 5 hours of informed and powerful presentations by Mission citizens, council stopped the consultation with people still lined up to speak. Councilor Horn stated the project could cost $2000 for each Mission home, but voted in favour anyway. He, Mayor Atebe and Councilor Gidda attempted to argue that their vote to go forward was not an endorsement but merely gave all Mission residents an opportunity to vote on a referendum. Fortunately, the consultant Delloit and Touche clarified that P3 Canada required a commitment from council to the P3 deal, subject to satisfactory funding from P3 Canada (for up to 25% of the cost) and assent of the electorate. To their credit, Councilors Stewart, Stevens, Plecas and Scudder heard the concerns being expressed and voted against this commitment.
CAUSS believes that Mission should learn to live within its means rather than forcing growth at any cost. Mission simply cannot afford the massive infrastructure costs associated with sprawl. Its time to accept that a sustainable community must live within basic economic and environmental limits, and must ensure that the public interest is not overridden by corporate agendas. The UN has declared water as a fundamental human right. Clearly, the people of Mission agree.