REGINA – It was a smaller crowd for the second night of debates between Mayor Michael Fougere, and Regina Water Watch Spokesman Jim Holmes.
Anyone who was on hand for both debates might have been thinking, “same old, same old” after the first few minutes. Both Fougere and Holmes repeated nearly identical opening statements.
But then the questions started flying from Gyro Club members.
One member suggested that the Federal Government is bullying municipalities into taking P3 grants, which in our case totals over $58 million.
Another member asked Holmes why the group accuses the city of trying to privatize water. Holmes responded that turning over service delivery to a private corporation is the very definition of privatization.
A query that seemed to be on the minds of many, “What happens over the course of a 30 year private-public contract if there’s a major expense, or the company goes bankrupt?”
Fougere says he’s not worried about that.
“If there was a change in standards, a breakdown, not meeting license (requirements), then they bear the cost not the taxpayers,” he said. “Eyes wide open, they know that going in. No one can tell you what happens going into the future, but you develop a contract with contingencies to take care of that.”
Holmes is not quite as optimistic about that hypothetical scenario.
“They’re addictive for bureaucrats. Get something now, pay later. As something changes, we’ll have to renegotiate,” he warned. “We’re probably in the weakest imaginable bargaining position. They’ve got the plant. They run it. If we put an additional demand on them, they’ll want to be paid for that.”
New Insightrix Research poll numbers are showing a stark split between residents on this issue. Out of 264 residents who plan to vote, 45 percent support the Mayor’s P3 plan, 37 percent will vote against it, and 18 percent are still undecided.
Debate organizers hope this week’s forums have cleared up a few issues.