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Great Lakes Article:

Protect Toronto's Drinking Water

6/19/2002

A recent poll commissioned by Water Watch (A2 June 15 Toronto Star – details below) showed strong support for keeping the city’s water management system under the direct control of city staff and council.

We need to call councillors and get them to STOP the Water Plan now!

Please return completed petitions as soon as possible – reply to this email to make arrangements.  If you want to work on petitions please visit our website  www.torwaterwatch.org and call 416-580-8466 for recommended areas.


ACTION PLAN

============

1)  Call 416-338-0338 and ask for your councillor

Or use this website to find your councillor. http://app.city.toronto.on.ca/im/council/councillors.jsp

2) Email your councillor - use the following email format

councillor_(INSERT LAST NAME, no capitals, OF

COUNCILLOR HERE)@city.toronto.on.ca

e.g. if your councillor is Pam McConnell the email address would be councillor_mcconnell@city.toronto.on.ca

3) Contact Water Watch if you can assist with further efforts www.torwaterwatch.org

Call 416-820-7889

Email sm@io.org or torwaterwatch@yahoo.ca

4) Send Water Watch your postal code and contact information for reference Email bryantimm@bigfoot.com

5) Review poll results and “10 Reasons to Reject the

City’s Water Plan”

(Highlights from Toronto Star article)

Most want city to control water

Toronto Star A2 June 15

A large majority of Toronto residents believe the city’s water is safe to drink, support keeping the water system under city government control and believe that they haven’t been consulted adequately on proposed changes, a poll has found.

68.6 per cent supported having the city continue to directly run the water system, while 17.9 per cent supported the plan backed by Lastman.

76.9 per cent said they didn’t know city council was contemplating changes to water management, while 21.7 per cent were aware

82.4 per cent said they would vote for a candidate who supported maintaining direct city government control of the water system


June 16, 2002 For Immediate Release

Poll Shows Massive Opposition to Water Board

81 % want to keep direct control of water system

Toronto residents overwhelmingly oppose Mayor Mel Lastman’s plan to turn the City’s drinking water over to an arms-length service board, and expressed dissatisfaction with the City’s lack of consultation on the issue.

The results are a sharp rebuke to the Mayor’s plan for Toronto’s water system.

Residents appear to oppose mayor Lastman in overwhelming numbers in almost every aspect of his effort to alter our water system.

*  81% say they would oppose any effort to reduce direct accountability in the system

*  75% say they trust the City to run the water system while only 15% trust an arms-length agency of commission

*  75% are satisfied with the current water system.

*  77% say they have not been informed about the proposed changes though 90% think they City should not proceed without consultation

*  69% say the City should continue to run the system directly while only 18% support and arms-length agency.

The next municipal election will be heavily effected by the choices City Councillors makes about the water system at next week’s Council meeting. Over 82% of those surveyed said the water issue would be an important factor in deciding who to support in the next election, with 28% calling it the most important factor.

“The public has spoken loud and clear,” said Sean Meagher of Water Watch, “They don’t like the Mayor’s plans to give up control of our drinking water. Mayor Lastman claims the public is confused by privatization scares. But this poll asked separate questions about privatization and the Mayor’s proposed agency. What we found is that the public doesn’t like either one. What’s more, they’re prepared to say so at the ballot box.”

The poll was commissioner by Toronto Water Watch, a local coalition that has been advocating for public control of the water system. The poll, conducted between May 29th and June 5th, and posed key questions about the future of Toronto’s water system to 600 Toronto residents and is accurate within 4.7%.

- 30 -

For more information or interview opportunities please call

Sean Meagher at 416 820-7889


10 REASONS TO REJECT THE CITY’S PLAN TO GIVE UP CONTROL OF OUR DRINKING WATER

On May 31st, the City released a report on the future of our water system. The report recommends that the City abandon direct public control of our water system and adopt a new management system – one that is unpopular, expensive and less accountable.

Worse still, the report doesn’t give a clear picture of how the proposed Municipal Service Board system would work or how it might affect taxes, staffing, public health and other municipal services.

Here are 10 reasons why no one should accept this report.

1)  The report admits its recommendations decrease accountability.

The report acknowledges that accountability is one of the most important considerations, calling it “crucial”.

It also acknowledges that direct public control of water systems creates the most accountability. But the report recommends an arms-length, appointed board, which it admits is less accountable.

It also recommends that the City try to set up a water corporation, a model it concedes is the least accountable.

2)  The report rejects the system the public wants.

The report shows that public feedback has consistently supported the current, directly accountable model. 

The report acknowledges the current system to be more accountable, more responsive and more likely to provide a secure supply of clean safe water.

Despite that ringing endorsement, the City rejected that model, instead choosing to pursue one that it admits is less accountable and less responsive.

3)  The proposed plan raises taxes (and water rates), but provides no new services.

The Water & Wastewater Division contributes millions to help cover the administrative costs of running the City.

The Division also provides free water for city parks and the fire department. Under the new plan, the City would have up to $78 million less to cover overhead costs, and the fire department would pay for water. 

The City would have to raise taxes to cover the difference.

No one has calculated the tax impact of these changes.

4)  The report recommends a model, but has no idea how it would work

The report recommends a new Municipal Service Board, but says nothing about what policies the board would follow, the cost of establishing it, or the tax implications.

The report asks for five months to figure out an implementation plan. The process includes no public consultation.

5)  The new model won’t improve infrastructure investment (which was the only reason for changing the system in the first place).

The report claims we need an arms-length body to ensure long-term investment in infrastructure. But the City is already making long-term investments, and has adopted a plan that will make sure those investments continue.

Even if Councillors want to back out of that plan, Bill 155 will soon make it illegal to underfund water infrastructure.

What’s more, the proposed structure doesn’t give the new board the power to make those investment decisions.

City Council keeps the power to set the water rate and set the budget. The proposed board has no power to meet the goals that are set out for it.

6)  We don’t know the outcome of the massive legislative changes that are coming, or how they affect the proposed model.

The report acknowledges that the Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act has not yet been passed and will have a big impact on how water systems are governed.

The report recognizes that the Municipal Act regulations affecting water corporations are not written, and the Act itself has not even taken effect.

The report concedes that the guidelines on funding for water and wastewater systems under SuperBuild are not yet written.

The report notes that the new Safe Drinking Water Act hasn’t even been drafted.

Despite almost no information about how the legislation will change the future, the report recommends proceeding now with a new system for managing our water.

7)  The plan creates a new structure to reduce overhead costs for our water system but admits overhead costs are very low, and are unlikely to get lower.

Big North American cities have overhead costs of between 17.5% and 34% of their budgets. Toronto’s overhead cost is 19.6% - almost at the bottom.

How would a new structure make those costs go lower? No one seems to know.

8)  The plan could cause massive layoffs in other departments.

If the City is to avoid massive tax increases resulting from the removal of $78 million in funding for administrative overhead, it would have to lay off hundreds of City staff in the administrative departments.

There is no plan for coping with the impact of the layoffs, the severance costs, or the labour relations implications.

9)  The changes could affect public control of the water system under international trade laws, but the City Solicitor won’t be able to report on that for five months.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) contain provisions that can undermine public control of services like water.

Changing the management of our water system could have an impact on how those laws apply, but the report recommends that we adopt a new management model now, five months before the City Solicitor can report on the implications.

10)  The report agrees we have a first rate water system that is one of the best in the world, but still it calls for massive changes.

If it ain’t broke, why are we raising taxes, laying off staff, reducing accountability and disrupting the water system to fix it?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bryan Timm 212 Carlton St. #4  Toronto, ON M5A 2L1

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