Friday, March 25, 2011

Canadian Water: In Harper You Trust?

Is water important to you? If you are Canadian, you might be swimming in it, but, like it or not private business wants your pool and charge you to swim in it.

The conservatives put nothing into the 2011 budget with regards to water, one of lifes most important commodities. It is interesting that water gets so little attention, or is that the plan?

Do Canadians think that a Harper government is protecting our environment? Do Canadians think that a Harper government is protecting our public water systems or water resources? Do I need to ask these silly questions?

I read recently that ~73% of Canadians want clean water and sanitation to be a human right. In the past few years, the story of water, has always been in the “top 10” of most under-reported stories. In business, it is best not to arouse suspicion when dealing with critical resources, best to keep it under the radar. After the deals are inked, then all issues are resolved in the courts.

Canadians are flush with water, I can see why most are not concerned about this natural resource. I guess if any Canadian went to a place with no access to clean drinking water, their opinions would be instantly rebranded to this topic. Canadians are so resource rich, seems we rarely reflect and protect our Canadian natural bounty. Seems that our “resource spoiled” attitude clouds our perception of the current business interests in Canada: water and oil. Apathy is a given when we assume that our government is looking after our best interests. Seems the conservatives' best interest is selling anything that is not nailed down.

If we look at the bottled water deals, made in Canada, we can see the ethics involved: "unlimited" water for corporations. Studies show that water tables are falling fast: when you do the math, how could they not? I wrote a blog about water in January, since, this story has grown. I talked about my negotiations training, so, what kind of deals will our “leaders” cut for us? Another silly question.

Well, that time is upon us, and quietly, we see the stories start to emerge. Winnipeg's secret 30 year deal with French company, Veolia, for private operation of its water. The NAFTA agreement opens the door to private water interests. The proposed CETA agreement opens the door to private water systems.

Some people would argue, but, the results are best illustrated in other cities' experience. The company I mentioned above, Veolia, is currently being trounced from many cities in Europe. Paris, France, embarked on the Veolia "ride", years ago, and now free, after going through the expensive process of getting a public water system back.

What are the lessons of privatized systems: eventually the costs are raised and any changes, or complaints, to services requires expensive court time. It is also worth noting that opportunities for innovation are lost, since there is no incentive for the business to do so. Any innovations are paid by the customer and savings kept by the business. Surprise, thats business. Did your designer jeans drop in cost when they started making them in China?

If we look at most cities, especially Toronto, we see governments that have not properly funded and maintained water infrastructure. The long term plan for any crooked group is to let things fall into disrepair and sell it to your “friends” in business. If you are in big business, this is a huge opportunity to force cities to give up their public water systems. Of course private systems are inherently more expensive, but a shifty leadership and greedy water company can sell it to the people. Its business, big business. Look at the water costs of some US cities, what will seniors do in Canada?

With so many examples of cities privatizing services, only to fight for them to be reverted back to public systems, Canadians need to become aware that when you add it all up, the public system is the cheapest solution, not a cheap solution. Just like the "magic mortgages" in the US, the sticker price looks good, but, in due time, the true cost is revealed. The inital savings pale in comparison to the repair bill.

Politicians help sell these deals with promises. Look at the total mess with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the water scandal with regards to his criminal former top aide, Bruce Carson. The pamphlet may look glossy, but, the business is always the same: unethical with no intent to help, just profit at any cost: yours.


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