Something to combat your post-referendum blues/joy

What’s the matter this morning? Your chicken taste like pork? Your Yes ballot sizzling away like a water drop on a hot plate? Or maybe doing a little tango with yourself over your contribution to the No side? This should give us all some perspective.

And in the meantime, mark your calendars for summer 2033, when we’re all old and grey and full of sleep, and the city is duking it out with whatever company is grinding our public infrastructure down to a dull nub.

Tonight: Maude Barlow And Friends Take Down Big Sewage

Referendum 2013-Maude BarlowRegina Water War - Referendum 2013UPDATE: CJME has a good story on this morning’s press conference. Check it out. Here’s my original post.

There is an excellent, perhaps even can’t miss free event tonight for anyone who wants to be better  informed about the Sept. 25 referendum on Regina’s waste water sewage treatment plant at the University of Regina. Legendary Council Of Canadians national chairperson Maude Barlow, along with P3 expert Pierre Hamel and aquatic biochemist Marley Waiser will speak against the City Of Regina’s plan to  use a private company to design, build and operate Regina’s next waste water treatment plant. These aren’t trade union stooges or dippy local hippies* — these are smart, world-class thinkers who you can bet will make a clear, coherent case against the City’s plan.

If you’re struggling to understand the issues, tonight’s event will offer the best possible articulation of the Yes side’s position.

The public forum starts at 7:00 p.m. at the University of Regina education auditorium. It’s free, and so is the parking. These things often end in Q&As, so I suspect there will be an excellent chance to have your specific questions answered. And, especially if you’re planning on voting for City Council’s plan, you owe it to yourself to hear the other side make their best arguments. Don’t you think?

*No offence to our beloved dippy-hippy friends.

Busting Some Referendum Rumors

Regina Water War - Referendum 2013There sure are some crazy notions about the referendum swirling about the Regina rumor-scape these days. I thought it might be worthwhile putting a couple of them to rest.

The latest I’ve heard (last night at recreation program sign-up) is that the city clerk’s office has declared that for a Yes side win to be binding, they would need to capture 60 per cent of the vote and there would have to have been a 50 per cent voter turnout — an impossible threshold.

But that rumour is 100 per cent false.

I just spoke with Jim Nicol, executive director of governance, and he says some people may have read the provincial Referendum And Plebiscite Act and assumed it applies to the City of Regina. It doesn’t.¹

“Ours is a strict 50 per cent plus one [vote],” says Nicol.

And that means that if only 10,000 people show up to vote, the question of whether to P3 or not P3 could be decided by as few as 5,001 people.

Continue reading “Busting Some Referendum Rumors”

Why The Rush To The Sewage Plant?

Regina Water War - Referendum 2013You’ll recall how I interviewed Mayor Michael Fougere three weeks ago to talk about possible alternate sources of funding for the waste water sewage plant project in the event that we can’t access P3 Canada Fund dollars because of a Yes side win.

Alternate sources like the new, soon-to-be replenished Building Canada Fund.

Fougere said the Building Canada wouldn’t work (read the article for a dissenting opinion on that) because the BCF that restarts after 2014 is a new fund and would require all projects be vetted for P3 viability.¹

Well, that got me wondering, why didn’t we access the old Building Canada Fund? I mean, here we are racing to get our waste water sewage treatment plant built in time so our waste water sewage will comply with new federal water quality regulations — and we’re going to be cutting things seriously close. But it’s not like these water regulations are some kind of big surprise.

City council has been talking about upgrading our waste water sewage treatment plant for a very long time. But we haven’t been actually getting it upgraded until just now.

I asked Mayor Fougere about why we’ve been so sluggish…

Prairie Dog: This sewage treatment plant project has been looming in the background at council for a long time. Almost as long as I’ve been covering city hall. Why didn’t we get funding secured for it three, four, five years ago when the Building Canada Fund was there? Why are we only getting this done now?

Mayor Fougere: I’ll have to go back and look at some of the reports and give me a chance to look at those to be clear on this one before I answer in detail. But it’s also we’re building up our own reserves because part of the funding is we were paying through the reserves as well and it was the timing to go forward. Building Canada wasn’t available at that time, I don’t think it was when you’re talking about it, unless we’re going back even further, that Building Canada wasn’t necessarily there at all. So it was when we’re ready to do it, when we felt we needed to do it and when we had the capacity to do the project.

PD: There were even other funds available at one time though. The Canada Saskatchewan Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund,² for instance, that maybe we could have accessed seeing as we’ll be entering into agreements with rural municipalities [to use our waste water facility]. It’s almost as if we’re coming at this late in the game and now things are rushed.

MF: I don’t feel that way at all. I don’t think we’re rushed on this at all. We needed to get the work done so you can rewrite history I suppose and say we should do something different but we weren’t ready to do the project at the time. We were still designing the project, looking at the timing of that relative to other infrastructure needs, so I wouldn’t want to rewrite and say we should’ve done something differently because we weren’t ready to go then.

Continue reading “Why The Rush To The Sewage Plant?”

No Really, Capitalists Should TOTALLY Be Backing The Yes Side, Amirite? — An Interview With Brent Sjoberg

Regina Water War - Referendum 2013Hey! Look at this! I actually did do an interview with deputy city manager, Brent Sjoberg, executive lead on the waste water sewage plant P3. Just last week. And I transcribed the whole dang thing.

Maybe I’m not such a lazy toad, afterall.¹

I basically asked Sjoberg the same questions I asked the Mayor in that interview excerpt I posted yesterday. Sjoberg’s answers, though, were a little more… erm… comprehensive. (Interview clocks in at a whopping 3,000 words.)

So, as for why aren’t sewage treatment companies supporting the Yes side and trying to stop these P3s from happening, Sjoberg gave me a very detailed answer that ends with…

One of the factors is with P3s, they are a long term contract. And they are larger contracts. I mentioned in this case the P3 would not only be in construction but in the ongoing operations and maintenance. Instead of, to use the P3 numbers, instead of a $224 million project it’s a $760 million project over 30 years. That’s a big project. It’s attractive and that’s the business that they’re in. So usually they’re well versed on various different models and they do assessment of each project and determine that there’s something for them and that’s part of our process.

On the subject of how water rates will be set through the P3, I was under the impression that the waste water portion of the rate could fluctuate and so the private partner might be able to influence the rate over the lifespan of the project. Sjoberg says no.

What ends up happening under a P3 procurement and contract is the rates paid to the private consortium for operating and maintenance are determined in advance. For the duration of the 30 years. So that’s the I guess a little bit of the benefit of having a competitive process. So each of the consortiums are bidding on the project not only for the construction portion but they’re also bidding on it for the 30 year maintenance.

And as for what kind of reporting requirements will be on the private partner and what form they’ll take, Sjoberg explained it this way…

The contract that is structured with them has a whole level of performance requirements and reporting requirements. There’s compliance reviews and all kinds of work going on on a regular basis. At the administrative level they would be reporting to the city more often than they would be to council. I can’t say specifically if there’s a requirement for them to report to council. In any event the administration would do that as part of our regular process.

In the interest of providing maximum pre-referendum info-dumpage, I’m posting the entire interview below.

Continue reading “No Really, Capitalists Should TOTALLY Be Backing The Yes Side, Amirite? — An Interview With Brent Sjoberg”

Why Aren’t The Capitalists Backing Regina Water Watch? An Interview With Mayor Michael Fougere

Regina Water War - Referendum 2013Hey Regina. How’re things? I’ve been on holidays. Sorry, booked them long before you decided to kick your autumn off with a “referendum.” Mind you, I left detailed instructions with our esteemed editor, S. Whitworth Esq., about stuff that needed covering on the waste water sewage P3 vote but apparently he fukken ignored them.

In my absence, I hear Chad Novak has been scooping the hell out of us on the referendum front. I wouldn’t know. My first week of holiday was spent in the Narrow Hills without any access to the internet. I read a book. It was a great experience. These books they make out of paper nowadays are awesome. I predict they’re totally going to overtake laptops and iWhatsits as text readers. I can’t believe I used to do all my reading on a backlit screen.

How primitive.

Anyway, since I got back to civilization — such as it is — I’ve been doing the domestic bliss thing, paying exclusive attention to first days of Grade Two and waffle making. And as for the internet, if it was about something other than comic books, I didn’t read it.

Then the other day, our next door neighbour put up a “Vote Yes” sign on their lawn and I thought, “Ah shit, right. Referendum. I should write something about that.”

Fortunately, I had something in the can all ready to put on the web and here it is! An interview with our mayor, Michael Fougere about P3s, private companies and profit margins returns on investment.

Continue reading “Why Aren’t The Capitalists Backing Regina Water Watch? An Interview With Mayor Michael Fougere”

The Mayor Called Me Last Night, How About You?

This Week at City HallTwitter was all abuzz last night with tales of people receiving phone calls from a recorded Mayor Michael Fougere, entreating them to vote “No” in the upcoming waste water treatment plant P3 referendum. There was even a comment on the blog about it.

Of course, Fougere didn’t refer to it as a waste water treatment plant, the phrase is sewage treatment plant now.

I know this because I also received one of these automated calls. I found it a little off-putting because I’m actually expecting a call from the Mayor to interview him about the referendum. So when I picked up the phone and heard, “Hello, this is Mayor Michael Fougere.” I was like, “Oh, thanks for getting back to me.”

I was three quarters the way through my interview questions before I realized I was talking to a recording.

Continue reading “The Mayor Called Me Last Night, How About You?”

Game On! WE HAZ REFERENDUM!

83B_9840Tonight, at a special meeting of council to consider the rejection of Regina Water Watch’s petition, Mayor Fougere moved to call a referendum on the waste water plant P3.

He also moved the question on the petition should be the same as the one used on the Regina Water petition.

A vote was held and the motion passed unanimously.

And that means we’re having a referendum in probably around eight weeks.

I think it’s safe to call this a big win for the people who came out to speak tonight and for all those who collected the 24,000 names on the RWW petition. And it also strikes me as a pretty daring move by Mayor Fougere.

With that, I’m going to bury myself under a blanket and write a story about this for the next issue of Prairie Dog. It comes out on Thursday.