BY ROCHELLE BAKER, VANCOUVER SUN
The City of Abbotsford will receive up to $65.7 million in federal funding for its proposed P3 Stave Lake water project should civic voters approve the project in the referendum during the election.
Abbotsford MP Ed Fast announced that the federal government will provide the money for the infrastructure project – the largest ever invested by Ottawa in the city’s history – through the P3 (Public-Private Partnerships) Canada Fund.
The funding demonstrates the government’s commitment to support important community infrastructure projects, Fast said.
“The Stave Lake water project will not only deliver a longterm solution for the city’s water supply, but will also produce economic benefits and deliver greater value for taxpayers,” he said.
“We are absolutely certain that the residents of Abbotsford will receive excellent value for their money.”
The federal government believes public-private partnerships are a viable cost-effective option to deliver these projects on budget and on time, he added.
Abbotsford and most of council has thrown its weight behind a plan to establish a $300-million water source and treatment centre at Stave Lake by 2016. The plan has become the primary issue in the upcoming civic election and the public will decide the project’s fate in a referendum on Nov. 19.
The city has been waiting on an announcement from P3 Canada after making a funding application for up to 25 per cent of the Stave Lake project.
The project also involves the city entering into a 25-or 30-year contract with a private business to build, partly finance and operate the new water facility.
Abbotsford Mayor George Peary expressed his pleasure with the federal grant. “It’s a red-letter day for the City of Abbotsford,” Peary said.
Conventional funding for Abbotsford via the federal Building Canada Fund was unlikely in the near future, as most of the money has already been allocated, said Fast.
Critics of the plan, Water Watch Mission-Abbotsford and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), issued a statement after the announcement that the grant was a means to push communities to privatize public services. The groups argued P3s cost taxpayers more due to higher borrowing and operating costs.
“It is abhorrent policy for the federal government to dictate to communities that in order to access our federal tax dollars for vital infrastructure we need to privatize our services,” said Water Watch spokeswoman Lynn Perrin.