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This article was published 21/7/2009 (4005 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINNIPEG — ON the eve of city council's vote on a proposed water, sewer and power utility, more than 200 people gathered at city hall Tuesday evening to protest the project.
Many claim the move is a step toward privatization -- despite the mayor's insistence that has nothing to do with the proposal.
The rally was organized by the Winnipeg Labour Election Committee, said member Darrell Rankin, who is also the Manitoba leader of the Communist Party of Canada.
The utility would assume control of water, sewer, garbage and recycling services and possibly develop green power. It would also strike waste-water deals with Winnipeg's bedroom communities.
The most contentious part of the deal is a plan to develop some sort of partnership with a private engineering firm to complete up to $1 billion worth of sewage-treatment upgrades and combined-sewer replacements.
Rankin said he and the other protesters are not convinced the new utility won't eventually lead to water privatization.
"We are still concerned that the operation of the plant will still result in higher prices and lower wages for employees," Rankin said.
Over the past week, a variety of left-leaning groups has decried the utility for a plethora of reasons, most relating to the involvement of a so-called strategic partner.
Organizations such as the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Council of Canadians and the Provincial Council of Women have issued thoughtful statements about the potential loss of control over essential city services.
But other groups -- most notably the local Communists, the Winnipeg Citizens' Coalition and the Labour Election Committee -- have issued allegations about privatization that have less to do with the proposal before council. Last week, the WCC even used an auto-dialer to phone citizens at home.
"Everybody has the right to their opinion, but I always believe there should be some responsibility to tell the truth," Mayor Sam Katz said. "These people are 100 per cent wrong and they know they're wrong."
Protesters at Tuesday night's rally said they were concerned the move would eventually lead to privatization of the city's water -- and along with it, higher prices.
"As soon as you enter into a partnership with a private company, you're taking something out of the public's hands," said University of Manitoba student Sean Buchanan. "I'm concerned about the step toward privatization of our water."
-- With files from Bartley Kives
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