First City Council approved a Private Public Partnership (P3) method of privatizing waste water treatment for Regina. This displeased a great many people, apparently some Councillors even too because they only chose to do that for the $58M with strings the federal Conservative government was offering if Council voted for a P3.
I brought to you some of the meeting that kicked off the petition effort to get a citizen vote to overturn the Council’s decision.
When it appeared as if Regina Water Watch was going to be successful in gathering 20,000 signatures, the City Clerk sought to raise the threshold of signatures with only days remaining to gather more. This initial improper partisan effort at City Hall failed.
More signatures were gathered, than electors who cast votes for Mayor Fougere last October. The Clerk then set to work verifying the sufficiency of the petition, and did so by ruthlessly removing signatures that omitted “2013” or “13” in the date for the petition that was started this year and was due within 90 days of having begun. The Clerk also went above a reasonable level of effort of verifying signatories, by looking up phone numbers, calling them, and striking names of those who didn’t phone back.
Reginans were incensed that the wishes of tens of thousands of voters had been ignored. They over-filled City Hall with delegations and a rowdy crowd in the gallery. The Mayor saw which way the wind was blowing, and agreed to honour the question put forth in the petition, while not conceding that the Clerk had not acted in the spirit of the process. (Since he’d not defended the administration when it had kicked up the Rooming Houses bylaw trouble, I interpreted this to mean he’d had a hand in this in some way, but not a hand in the Rooming Houses mistake.)
Then, to heap on the controversy, the City of Regina Twitter/Facebook accounts started using the #VoteNo hashtag to label Waste Water Treatment Plant communication. Clearly this is unethical, as it’s government campaigning on behalf of the elected Council.
The province makes this sort of act illegal if its civil servants do it, but apparently (according to Mark Cooper) it’s not banned in Regina’s bylaws, so it remains only unethical. Yes, in Regina you cannot own a chicken, but you can work for the civic government and tell people how to vote in official communication. No word yet what happens to you if you don’t vote “No” as the City officially advises you to do.
You can vote online at Metro today to tell the City they are behaving unethically. Currently 45% say that’s the case, while another 41% think it’s not “lobbying”, I’d suggest to protect their political interest, not because they actually believe that nonsense.
Getting past the City’s troubling partisan BS, there are still the questions of economics, and who should own public services.