More than 50 people held a rally outside municipal hall Monday afternoon in support of council’s decision last week not to construct an additional water source at Stave Lake for Mission and Abbotsford under a public private partnership (P3).
Mission citizens were supported by Chilliwack and Abbotsford residents, many waving signs stating their opposition to have any private involvement in the project.
“We think [Mission council] made the right decision,” said Janet Chalmers, spokesperson for Water Watch Mission-Abbotsford (WWMA), which organized the demonstration.
Chalmers, concerned about the way Abbotsford Mayor George Peary has been talking about proceeding with a P3, also noted Mission councillors need to know residents are behind the decision.
“Whatever it cost us, it’s worth it.”
WWMA began planning the action last Friday after members heard from at least one councillor there was to be an in-camera meeting Monday afternoon. Chalmers said she became worried when the mayor didn’t respond to an e-mail questioning which items were on the agenda.
“Keep our water public and keep the talks public too,” said Chalmers.
“Paying for our water is a nightmare — it’s a natural resource,” said Anne Degiovanni, who attended the rally with her children Quinn and Jacob. “When it’s private, you don’t know what will happen and you won’t feel you have any control.”
“The P3 proposal is a slippery slope because it could lead to the privatization of one of our most natural resources,” added Chantel Waite. “Water is more precious than oil. We’ll be looking at water wars, not oil wars in the future.”
The crowd’s fear was addressed shortly after the night’s regular council meeting began inside chambers when Mayor James Atebe assured the audience that council’s decision last week stands. He noted that some members voted differently, but “once council makes a resolution, it’s what we will do.”
He also stated that information about a closed meeting, held according to the Community Charter, should not have been shared publicly, and that council conducts such meetings every Monday.
There was never any intention to reconsider the decision in a closed meeting and such talks can only be done in a public format, Atebe added.