September 19, 2013 12:50 am
Updated: September 19, 2013 9:27 am

Few fireworks in waste water treatment plant debate

Regina Water Watch Spokesperson, Jim Holmes, and Mayor Michael Fougere debate a P3 option for our waste water treatment plant.

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REGINA – It was the debate we were waiting for.

The City of Regina squared off with Regina Water Watch in a forum at the University of Regina on Wednesday night, but the evening wasn’t as heated as some may have expected.

Both sides of how to fund Regina’s new waste water treatment plant were passionate, as Water Watch spokesman Jim Holmes and Mayor Michael Fougere took written questions from the audience, as well as queries from their opponants.

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Some of the answers drew jeers and heckling from the crowd of over 400, particularly when unions came up.

One question criticized the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ (CUPE) involvement with Regina Water Watch, which Holmes disputed, saying the organization isn’t affiliated with CUPE and is only looking out for taxpayers.

Fougere was forced to defend what the city calls its “education campaign” or “Vote No” advertisements. He said that’s typical of any municipal campaign.

Both the Mayor and Water Watch were forced to answer questions related to financial risk of a public private partnership versus the traditional all-public model.

“In a design bid build, very bluntly said, all the risk rests with the owner which is the citizens of Regina,” said Fougere. “Seventy percent of public projects are over budget.”

But then Holmes shot back quickly, saying the city would have to figure out how to keep it on budget if that’s the way the voters decide to go.

“If the referendum passes, then it’s the duty of the city administration to carry out the wish of the voters,” said Holmes. “Design bid build contracts should be a fixed price contract. That is something that’s done all the time. You don’t need a P3 to have a fixed price contract.”

There were some lighter moments of the debate including the final question of the night, “Is there anything both sides can agree on?” The answer there, just that the city needs a new waste water treatment plant.

For a full recap of the questions and answers head over to Mike McKinnon’s twitter feed: https://twitter.com/mikemckinnon He was live tweeting the event.

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