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 breaking for an election in the fall.
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.
Edmonton City Council is considering selling $3.1 billion worth of drainage assets to EPCOR for just $1.00. We are urging City Council to keep drainage public. Why? Read Progress Alberta's Five big reasons to keep Edmonton's drainage public.
A recent poll released by the Edmonton and District Labour Council shows that Edmontonians are generally opposed to the privatization of essential city infrastructure and showed a lack of community awareness and consultation around the sale. Recent independent analysis of the sale shows that the public interest is not served by selling public City assets to EPCOR. View the full report online.
Read our media release. Listen to Public Interest Alberta Executive Director, Joel French, discuss drainage issues on the Ryan Jespersen Show, January 25, 2017.
Contact your city councillor and let them know that you want to keep Edmonton's drainage assets public.
The sale must be stopped to ensure the best interests of Edmontonians are protected. If EPCOR takes control of Edmonton’s drainage assets:
- Edmontonians will lose transparency and accountability as decisions are moved from the City Council chambers to behind closed corporate doors.
- The focus of those running our drainage services will be more focused on cutting costs and making profits than on providing a high quality service.
- There is a future risk that EPCOR could sell Edmonton’s drainage assets to a fully-private corporation.
Need to find your city councillor? Use the City of Edmonton's Ward Boundary and Neighbourhood Map.
Public Interest Alberta in the news
EPCOR and the drainage system Ryan Jespersen Show
For more information
Stakeholders voice concern over EPCOR's proposed takeover of Edmonton drainage utility by Jennifer Ivanov, Global News
EPCOR drainage proposal doesn't hold water, report says by Nola Keeler, CBC Edmonton
Epcor takeover of Edmonton drainage would include transparency clause, city report says by Gordon Kent, Edmonton Journal
Rejecting Epcor's drainage bid: Privatizing a public resource doesn't benefit the city by Ricardo Acuna, Vue Weekly
Drainage debate: Edmonton city council divided over who should control drainage system by Paula Simons, Edmonton Journal
Public to have say on Epcor taking over drainage by Nola Keeler, CBC News
Five big reasons to keep Edmonton's drainage public by Duncan Kinney, Progress Alberta
City of Edmonton documents related to the proposal can be found here and here