Privatizing Canada’s Water Infrastructure Should be an Election Issue

With the Canadian federal election just days away, it’s amazing that there’s been no media focus on the Liberals’ plan to privatize our municipal water and wastewater systems. As far as I can determine, only one alternative media site, Press Progress, has mentioned this worrisome plan, which was announced by the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) on July 15, 2019 when it agreed to provide $20 million in “innovative financing” for a public-private partnership (P3) in Mapleton, Ontario.

The Township of Mapleton is seeking a private consortium to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the municipality’s new and existing water and wastewater infrastructure for twenty years. By committing $20 million to the project, the CIB claims it “will improve the cost of project financing and attract private capital expertise while ensuring appropriate risk transfer to the private sector.” The CIB considers this a “pilot project to demonstrate new models for structuring and financing smaller municipal water and wastewater infrastructure projects.” [1]

Confusing Spin

There’s a lot of confusing jargon and spin in those statements, but the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has cut through it with this observation: “There’s nothing new about federal programs and institutions that try to make P3s more palatable, especially to smaller municipalities. In this case, the CIB will subsidize the borrowing costs for corporations bidding on the 20-year deal … The bank is offering to lend the private sector money at a lower rate than corporations could get on their own. Details about the loan terms are blacked-out in public documents about the deal.” [2]

While the Township of Mapleton will still retain ownership of the core assets, the consortium that wins the contract will obtain a secure stream of profits from operating and maintaining the system for the next twenty years. No doubt, rates to homeowners will have to rise, as the consortium will want a solid return on its investment.

So what is this “new model” for structuring and financing such projects? We taxpayers will subsidize the borrowing costs of the private sector so they can privatize the revenue stream from our water and wastewater systems. Moreover, according to CUPE, Mapleton Township will have to pay back the $20 million to the CIB. [3]

In other words, the Canada Infrastructure Bank is hoping to prove that not only is there a sucker born every minute, but most of them live right here in Canada.

Breaking New Ground?

As CUPE President Mark Hancock told Press Progress,

“We’re very concerned this could be the start of a bigger push to privatize Canadian water and wastewater services.” [4]

That concern is shared by the Council of Canadians, which recently stated:

“One challenge to the commitment to public water services is governments’ growing reliance on public-private partnerships (P3s). The Canadian government is imposing new and higher standards on municipal wastewater treatment across the country – which is a good thing for water safety. However, it appears the only funding for this is through the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, which is run by corporations and promotes P3s. The changes from the new regulations must be in place by 2020, limiting municipal governments’ options to choose public solutions.” [5]

The Canada Infrastructure Bank (widely known as the “privatization bank”) is apparently keen to open up this sector for corporate profits. As CUPE notes,

“The CIB’s mandate is clear. It’s trying to break new ground in a sector where there are very few P3s. In 2016, Statistics Canada reported that municipal and regional governments owned 3,400 water and wastewater facilities. Fewer than 20 municipalities have privatized their systems through some form of P3. The bank is zeroing in on the smallest communities, and is using Mapleton township as a pilot project.” [6]

The business case for the Mapleton project was presented to the town council by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the top global consultants that facilitate P3s. Not surprisingly, PwC recommended the CIB’s financing model.

With municipalities struggling financially across the country, and with many water and wastewater systems in need of upgrading, refurbishment, or outright creation, no doubt the private sector is thrilled about the new “innovative financing” from the CIB.

Just weeks after the CIB announcement about Mapleton Township, Google parent company Alphabet Inc. and affiliate Sidewalk Labs announced in August 2019 that they are partnering with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan to launch a new company that invests in North American infrastructure. The new company, Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, will operate and invest in five areas, including “water and waste”. [7]



[1] “Canada Infrastructure Bank Announces up to $20 Million Investment Commitment in Mapleton Water and Wastewater Project,” Canada Infrastructure Bank, July 15, 2019.

[2] “Infrastructure bank targets local water systems,” Canadian Union of Public Employees, July 19, 2019.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “The Liberal Government Says It’s Looking to Privatize Municipal Water Systems Across Canada,” Press Progress, August 6, 2019.

[5]”Whose Water is it, Anyway? book tour brings idea of Blue Communities across Canada,” Council of Canadians, September 25, 2019.

[6] “Infrastructure bank targets local water systems,” op cit.

[7] The Canadian Press, “Sidewalk Labs and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan to launch infrastructure company,” CBC News, August 29, 2019.

May commits to process for First Nations to opt out of Indian Act

Extinction Rebellion Takes Aim at Fashion

XR says it is the fastest growing direct action climate movement in history. And it has the fashion business in its sights.

Extinction Rebellion protesters carrying a casket during the mock funeral for fashion last month.Credit: Alexander Coggin for The New York Times

LONDON — Last month, on the final day of London Fashion Week, hundreds of black-clad demonstrators gathered in Trafalgar Square to embark on what they called “a funeral march for fashion.”

Gathering behind a band and giant painted coffin, they slowly processed en masse down the Strand, shutting down traffic on the busy thoroughfare as they chanted and handed out leaflets, leaving gridlock and chaos in their wake.

It was just the latest in a series of efforts designed by Extinction Rebellion, or XR, to disrupt the most visible British fashion event of the year. First, protesters covered in fake blood performed a die-in and demanded fashion week be canceled on opening day. Then, outside the Victoria Beckham show, activists had lined up, brandishing posters emblazoned with statements like “R.I.P. LFW 1983-2019” and “Fashion = Ecocide.”

Sustainability is at the forefront of the fashion conversation today in a way it has never been before, and the emergence of XR — which 18 months ago consisted of just 10 people in Britain and has since swelled to millions of followers across 72 countries — has stoked the increasingly heated discussion.

Extinction Rebellion activists with BoycottFashion posters outside of the Victoria Beckham show during London Fashion Week.
CreditAlexander Coggin for The New York Times

Although the movement targets numerous industries and governments worldwide, a recent focus on fashion has been particularly high profile.

Extinction Rebellion, which held demonstrations outside the Manhattan headquarters of The New York Times earlier this year demanding the newspaper increase its focus on climate change, has a distinctive hourglass logo, viral social media campaigns and creatively packaged demands for drastic action. It calls itself the fastest-growing climate and ecology direct action movement in history.

Come Monday, the most ambitious protest effort by the group yet will get underway, with tens of thousands of protesters planning to bring roads around Westminster to gridlock; there will also be a sit-in at London City Airport. This is the beginning of two weeks of environmental demonstrations that will also include repair stations where people can bring their old or damaged clothes.

So how does it all work?

Extinction Rebellion, which originally grew out of the activist group Rising Up! and relies solely on crowdfunding and donations, has three key goals: that governments are transparent about the impact of climate change; that they reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025; and that governments worldwide create citizens’ assemblies to set climate priorities.

Posters at the demonstration outside the Victoria Beckham show.
CreditAlexander Coggin for The New York Times

The group has been deliberately conceived as a self-organizing, non-hierarchical holacracy. There is no single leader or group steering its strategy, tactics and goals. Instead, it is a loose alliance of 150 groups across Britain alone, with volunteers organized into working subgroups, and support teams and responsibilities distributed among chapters.

Meetings and planning sessions tend to take place in online forums and on messaging apps, with meetings offline used for training and creating a sense of community.

Extinction Rebellion is not the first modern protest movement to organize in such a way (there are parallels in particular with the Occupy movement), though the setup can foster a general sense of confusion and disarray.

Volunteers cheerfully describe planning meetings as “pretty crazy and disorganized.” A news conference last week ahead of the latest mass protests involved a fair amount of shouting and technical difficulties, and at London Fashion Week, certain planned protests failed to materialize. With the exception of the funeral march, turnouts were generally lower than anticipated.

Indeed, the success, and confusion, around the XR approach to fashion — a sector responsible for about 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations — is fairly representative of the state of the group at large.

From left: Bel Jacobs, Sara Arnold and Alice Wilby, who are the coordinators of the BoycottFashion movement and part of Extinction Rebellion.
CreditAlexander Coggin for The New York Times

“It’s always somewhat chaotic and messy, but I suppose that’s part of the beauty of Extinction Rebellion,” said Sara Arnold, a coordinator of Boycott Fashion, an XR subgroup that has made headlines by urging people to buy no new clothes for a year. “You learn to just run with it and hope for the best.”




Why Trudeau’s Trans Mountain Dreams May Trickle Out in Coldwater

IN DEPTH: A tiny Indigenous band’s epic pipeline fight takes its biggest turn.

‘Nobody respects us,’ says Coldwater Chief Lee Spahan, his band having filed a new challenge to the TMX project he says has long trespassed his people’s territory. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

On the Friday evening of June 7, Chief Lee Spahan of the Coldwater Indian Band received an email from Mitchell Taylor, Q.C., head of a federal consultation team acting under the auspices of Canada’s Department of Justice.

The email contained an offer, and an assertion.

The offer was that the government would take a new approach to deciding where the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX) pipeline would be routed in relation to the Coldwater reserve, whose people are determined to protect the freshwater aquifer upon which they depend.

That issue had remained wholly unresolved after four years of negotiations, court judgments in favour of the Coldwater’s position, countless hours of consultations, and many hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on futile wrangling.

The stakes were high for the Coldwater, for the TMX, and for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had placed a heavy political bet on using taxpayer’s money to buy the pipeline and guaranteeing its expansion would happen. Last year, the Federal Court of Appeal threw out TMX’s permit to proceed, demanding more rounds of consultation with the Coldwater and other Indigenous nations in the path of the pipeline.

Now, with the new offer came this assertion: “Canada believes this commitment satisfies what we understand to be your key concerns.”

But Taylor’s offer did not begin to satisfy the key concerns of the Coldwater. In fact, in their view, it only put their precious aquifer further at risk, and once again failed to seriously evaluate a solution they’d been proposing for years.

The band was asked to respond to the government’s offer by June 12 — in just three business days. What had been a plodding process suddenly was moving fast. In fact, just 11 days after the emailed offer arrived in Spahan’s inbox, the federal government would announce (again) its approval of TMX, claiming in the process that it had done everything required of it to consult and accommodate Indigenous communities like Coldwater.

On Sept. 11, Trudeau asked the Governor General to dissolve the current parliament. That day he flew to Vancouver to start his bid for re-election with a speech that did not mention Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

The Coldwater Indian Band were busy too. That same day, they filed a Notice of Application in the Federal Court of Appeal that may hand pipeline opponents the keys to locking the project shut for good — or least spannering the works for months, if not years. MORE


Fossil Fuel Companies Knew How Hard Keeping to IPCC’s ‘Unprecedented’ 1.5C Limit Would Be — And Did Nothing

Benxi steel industry
Image: Andreas Habich/Wikimedia Commons CC BYSA 3.0

The scientists are clear: “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are needed if the humans are going to prevent the world warming by more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

This news — emanating from the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) mammoth new special report —  comes as a surprise to almost no-one. Least of all the fossil fuel industry, which has known for decades that the carbon budget that keeps that goal within reach has been rapidly depleting thanks to its products.

So how did we get here, to a place where plotting a path to keep planetary warming within this highly desirable limit requires changes on a scale for which “there is no documented historic precedent”?

Exxon Knew, Shell Knew

Fossil fuel companies have known for decades that their products would lead us to this point.

Back in 1982, Exxon published this graph, which shows a probable temperature rise of 1.5°C some time between 2030 and 2040:

Source: Graph from an internal 1982 Exxon briefing document

Today’s report confirms how scarily accurate that prediction is likely to be — it says that on current trends, the world is expected to wam by 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052. It also shows that the world has already currently warmed by about 1°C since pre-industrial levels thanks to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Exxon wasn’t the only fossil fuel company to commit resources to understanding this problem in the early days. An internal document from 1988 shows Shell also knew back that fossil fuel emissions were likely to lead to 1.5°C to 3.5°C of warming. On current trends, they’d be right — under current policies, the world is expected to warm by about 3.1°C to 3.7°C.

Source: Clipping from a 1988 internal Shell document entitled, ‘The Greenhouse Effect’

‘Unprecedented Changes’

The IPCC’s special report is the result of a huge collaboration between 91 authors and 114 co-authors, with 42,000 comments on drafts of the document, Climate Home reports.

The report says that if the world is going to keep to 1.5°C of warming without ‘overshooting’ — passing the limit then using technology to bring warming back down — then “rapid and far -reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure” are needed.

“These systems transitions are unprecedented in terms of scale, but not necessarily in terms of speed, and imply deep emissions reductions in all sectors, a wide portfolio of mitigation options and a significant upscaling of investments in those options”, the scientists say.

…But the IPCC says the benefits of delivering that more ambitious target are big, and worth pursuing.

But the IPCC report has confirmed an inconvenient truth for the industry: that if temperature rises are going to be held to safe level, there is little space for fossil fuels.

The report says that if warming is going to be limited to 1.5°C, with limited or no overshoot, renewables will need to provide 70 to 85 percent of electricity in 2050.  MORE


How do the main parties compare on climate change

Climate Change header

This is the climate change item in a CBC News  interactive. The original site is HERE. By using this drop-down list you can see the other items analysed

Carbon Tax
Child Care
Climate Change
Health Care
Small Business

Climate Change


Liberals plan to phase out coal power by 2030 to help exceed the Paris agreement’s carbon emission reduction targets. They pledge net-zero emissions by 2050. The party wants to end “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies and protect a quarter of Canada’s natural land and ocean habitats by 2025. They also plan to create an agency for clean water. The party would ban some single-use plastics and plant 2 billion trees over 10 years.


Conservatives say they are committed to meeting the Paris agreement target but would axe the carbon tax. They propose replacing a policy taxing heavy emitters with requirements they invest in clean technology or research. The party wants to sign agreements allowing Canada to get credit for helping achieve emissions reductions internationally and launch a green-tech patent tax credit for businesses.

New Democrat

The NDP says it wants to cut Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions to 450 megatonnes by 2030. To get there, it would spend $15 billion retrofitting buildings and create a “climate bank” to invest in renewable energy and clean technology. It wants to introduce a single-use plastics ban by 2022 and to boost the support fund for communities hit by natural disasters.


The Greens aim to reduce emissions to 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 ⁠— doubling Canada’s current Paris agreement targets ⁠— and hit net-zero emissions by 2050. The party would ban fracking, end imports of foreign oil and oppose fossil fuel projects. It says it would end fossil fuel subsidies within a year.

Bloc Québécois

The Bloc is committed to meeting the Paris agreement targets — and examine exceeding them. It opposes building pipelines or investing in fossil fuel projects, promising to cut subsidies within 100 days post-election. The party proposes using money saved on subsidies to promote clean energy. It wants Quebec to have a veto over any pipeline that would run through the province.

People’s Party

Leader Maxime Bernier acknowledges climate change is happening, but isn’t convinced humans play a role. He has said he would do “nothing” to address climate change and leave it to the private sector to find solutions. The party would withdraw from the Paris accord, get rid of green subsidies and ditch “unrealistic greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.”

Where’s the talk abut a guaranteed livable income?

Let’s hear where party leaders stand on the idea, because as work becomes more precarious, more Canadians will need help, no strings attached

Image result for policy options: where's the talk

hen Canadians head to the polls on October 21, they should ask themselves how Canada’s political parties will tackle inequality.

Over the past two decades, the richest Canadians have seen their share of income go up and up. The top one per cent absorbed almost a third of all income growth between 1997 and 2007, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Meanwhile, one in seven people in Canada lives in poverty — which hurts everyone, because poverty is expensive. In 2008, for instance, the cost of failing to address poverty in Ontario – including everything from health care and criminal justice system costs to lost tax revenue – was estimated to be 10 to 16 per cent of the province’s budget. That’s around $2,000 to $3,000 per household per year.

It’s time to consider a guaranteed livable income.

Unlike the current support offered by social assistance, a guaranteed livable income would not impose strict eligibility criteria, require recipients to work or get clawed back if recipients were to exceed a particular financial threshold.

The current social assistance model makes people dependent on that assistance; a person can essentially be punished for even limited financial success through a corresponding reduction of benefits.

Canadians are rightly proud of the improvements in quality of life achieved thanks to current forms of guaranteed income, namely programs such as the Canada Child Benefit and Old Age Security.

But providing a guaranteed livable income can go well beyond poverty reduction. It could also allow Canadians to navigate an increasingly volatile economy.

Industrial jobs are drying up. Precarious, non-unionized work without benefits – what some call the “uberization” of the labour market – is leading to job insecurity. New technologies, automation and artificial intelligence will affect jobs in industries like transportation and retail. Climate change threatens jobs in the natural resource sector as well.

In short, the economy is changing. Young people can no longer count on stable employment or career-long ties with one company, and secure pensions are becoming scarce.

A guaranteed income on its own will not be sufficient to ensure that standards relating to employment insurance, pensions and minimum wage hold strong in the new “gig economy.” It is not a silver bullet. But a guaranteed livable income could ensure no one falls through the cracks.

The idea is hardly new. Guaranteed income has been appearing in the platforms of some United States politicians. Pilot programs have been tested in in the US, Finland, Belgium, Namibia, Uganda and India. Manitoba and Ontario also launched pilot programs in 1974 and 2017 respectively – but Ontario’s program and plans to analyse Manitoba’s data were both cancelled after changes in government.

Senators, too, have long taken an interest in guaranteed income, from the 1971 Report of the Special Senate Committee on Poverty to more recent studies and advocacy on the issue, primarily led by former Conservative senator Hugh Segal and former Liberal senator Art Eggleton.

As recently as 2017, the Senate called on the federal government to put its weight behind provincial, territorial and Indigenous basic-income initiatives.

In that same tradition, we now call on political parties to take up the challenge.

We note that the Green Party has committed to support a guaranteed livable income. The Liberal Party has also gotten behind an option for new parents: a guaranteed paid family leave for those without employment insurance benefits.

One way or another, we senators are ready to continue the effort. We hope to connect with a range of experts and activists who have long been working on these issues, and we commit to re-energizing parliamentary debate about a guaranteed livable income. MORE


This election, ask representatives where they stand on universal basic income

Klein pushes for Green New Deal in the face of climate crisis

Darren Calabrese / The Canadian Press files</p><p>Naomi Klein (centre) launched the Leap Manifesto in Toronto in 2015.</p>
Naomi Klein (centre) launched the Leap Manifesto in Toronto in 2015. Darren Calabrese / The Canadian Press files

There are few global or international challenges that have brought our species together in solidarity. One can think to D-Day or the Apollo moon landing as examples of western countries using, in the former case, our collective capacity to push back totalitarian hate, and in the latter, defying what we knew was possible in terms of space exploration.

But there has never been a time in human history, which is not very long, where we have stared collectively into the mirror of our own existence.

For the past six decades, we have known that we have been causing catastrophic damage to our home. If you dispute the history of our destruction, Sept. 27 of this year marked the 57th anniversary of the release of Rachel Carson’s environmental science book, Silent Spring. (It should be mandatory reading for all educators.)

Sept. 27 of this year also marked the largest student demonstration in human history, with millions of youth leaving their classrooms to fight for their future and wake the rest of us up. It is this existential struggle that has compelled Naomi Klein, Canadian journalist, activist, and progressive, to release her latest book, On Fire: The Burning Case for a New Green Deal.

The author of No Logo and This Changes Everything, among others, was also a critical player in the development of the Leap Manifesto and the Green New Deal, supported by none other than U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and championed by U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In On Fire, Klein is inspired by the new voice of moral courage on our planet, Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, and the millions of youth turned activists who should be enjoying this time of adolescence but, owing to our greed and neglect, are forced to fight for the very thing that sustains life: planet Earth.

According to Klein, “learning has become a radicalizing act,” whereby in spite of adults, our children are participating in civil disobedience because “they are the first for whom climate disruption on a planetary scale is not a future threat, but a live reality.” They no longer have the idle pleasure of succumbing to what Aristotle calls akrasia, the human tendency to act against our better judgment.

On Fire provides a series of Klein’s essays written over the past decade, which not only chronicle the monumental and catastrophic canaries in the coal mine (the 2010 BP explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, the rise of fracking, the burning of the boreal forest, etc.), but also make the case for the need of a new understanding of how we live together. Of how we treat and share resources. Of how we become stewards of the Earth so that everyone has the means for a decent life.

And much of this work began in 2015, as Klein and other leaders began to develop the Leap Manifesto. Only four years ago, Canadians and the world were presented with a plan towards sustainability, equity and stability that was scoffed at by the likes of Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau and even Thomas Mulcair. Fast forward to 2019, and we’re still debating who will champion which pipeline.

Justin Tang / The Canadian Press</p><p>People rally near Parliament Hill in Ottawa as part of a climate rally, one of many held worldwide on Friday, Sept. 27.</p>
People rally near Parliament Hill in Ottawa as part of a climate rally, one of many held worldwide on Friday, Sept. 27.   Justin Tang / The Canadian PressAnd we wonder why our children are frustrated and afraid. “They understand that they are fighting for the fundamental right to live full lives,” Klein writes — lives that have been stolen from them.

Following the Leap Manifesto, in 2019 the Green New Deal arrived on Capitol Hill and has provided the basis for a global conversation about a positive pathway forward. Inspired by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, Klein helped develop a framework that checks unbridled capitalism, addresses social inequity and fully realizes the planetary emergency that stares us in the face.

The Green New Deal calls for a fundamental shift in how we operate. It calls for us, Klein argues, to “swerve off our perilous trajectory” through “sweeping industrial and infrastructure overhaul.”

It calls for us to stop denying the future of our kids and to become their allies as they lead the way to a positive, inclusive and thriving future.

Justin Tang / The Canadian Press files</p><p>The global climate strike, held in cities in dozens of countries on Sept. 27, saw millions of youth leave their classrooms in one of the largest worldwide demonstrations in history.</p>
The global climate strike, held in cities in dozens of countries on Sept. 27, saw millions of youth leave their classrooms in one of the largest worldwide demonstrations in history.   Justin Tang / The Canadian Press files 


The Sanders Climate Plan Can Work. Warren’s Can’t.