After only one public hearing to discuss Epcor's proposal to acquire $3.1 billion dollars worth of publicly owned drainage assets, City council voted 7-6 on April 12 to transfer all drainage assets to Epcor. Thus, putting billions of dollars of public infrastructure under the control of a private company. While EPCOR is completely owned by the City of Edmonton, it operates as a private company and is not bound to the same standards of transparency and public accountability as a utility controlled by the City.
We urge you to remember this important decision city council made before the fall election.
Mayor Iveson was supported in voting for the transfer by Councillors Michael Oshry, Andrew Knack, Scott McKeen, Michael Walters, Bryan Anderson and Ed Gibbons.
Voting against were Loken, Moe Banga, Ben Henderson, Tony Caterina, Mike Nickel and Bev Esslinger.
Public Interest Alberta -- along with Progress Alberta, the Edmonton & District Labour Council and Coalition of Edmonton Civic Unions -- opposed the transfer and despite the deal being approved, there were some positive changes made to the final motion. For instance, while EPCOR is not subject to Freedom of Information Legislation (FOIP), City Council stipulated that the final agreement include a FOIP-like process which will provide a way to access information about this essential utility (including an appeal process to resolve disputes about what should and should not be accessible).
Another concern was related to the potential for EPCOR to sell the drainage asset behind closed doors, much like EPCOR's power-generation assets were spun off into Capital Power in 2009. While this concern still exists, some assurances are included to ensure that, in the event EPCOR proposes a sale, the City must hold a public hearing.
While we fell short of our ultimate goal (drainage remaining within the City of Edmonton's organization), some important details to help address the concerns around transparency and accountability were added to the final motion, thanks in part to the lobby efforts of the concerned groups listed above and the engagement of many Edmonton citizens.