Community comes out to brainstorm water bylaw issue
“If somebody needs a temporary permit, then find a temporary way to do it”
Iqaluit residents packed the city’s council chambers on the night of Thursday, Aug. 9 to express concerns over proposed changes to the city’s water bylaw.
Many say the changes look like a move to privatize the city’s provision of freshwater, though the mayor and city councillors deny that.
After the defeat of a motion proposed at the last city council meeting to allow some Iqaluit businesses to secure their own licensed water provider, the city set up a public consultation last night on proposed changes to Water and Sewer Bylaw #200.
These would allow the city to enter into agreements with private companies to provide water and sewer hauling services to commercial and/or industrial clients.
About 30 people crammed into the small City Hall chambers for the consultation, where Mayor Madeleine Redfern told the room that all the comments made during the meeting, whether oral or written, would be compiled, shared online for the public record and provided to council.
“Ultimately, it is council’s discretion how Bylaw 200 will be amended,” Redfern said, adding that it will be on the agenda for the next council meeting on Aug. 14, when the task force set up to handle the city’s water shortage will also provide updates.
“An important thing to note is this is not the privatization of water, this is the private hauling of water, for a very small, very limited, amount of entities,” Redfern said. “This is not going to displace or replace our current water and sewage system.”
Of those who spoke at the consultation, many spoke of a need for transparency, clarity and accessible information, monitoring water usage and waste water, the effects the brewery will have on the already-low water supply, rewording key points in the bylaw amendment and larger projects related to tapping into new water sources.
The first speaker was Bethany Scott, who said, “Fundamentally some of the changes that are proposed in the bylaw do change the nature of how the city interacts with its water source.”
The section she was most concerned about is section 65.2, where it says that persons that are authorized to provide trucked services for a fee will have the right to re-sell the water to customers as they deem appropriate.
“I really don’t think we should allow these private companies to re-sell it at their own profit,” Scott said.
Her suggested solution is to have the city find a way to provide water to the few businesses that need more water without making changes to the bylaw.
She said she knows the brewery has been authorized to haul 10,000 litres of water from Lake Geraldine.
“If somebody needs a temporary permit, then find a temporary way to do it,” Scott asked.
“I know that you say it is not privatization but there are many of us who feel like there is a link.”
Anne Crawford, a lawyer, would like to see the city contract a third-party supplier, so that water can remain a public resource, while the city takes its time to put a new bylaw in place. She also mentioned that the language of the newer version of the bylaw is very oriented toward ownership—private agreements, contracts and manager are frequent words.
“I wonder if fundamentally these are the principles we should be acting on,” Crawford said.
Another speaker brought up the fact that the city has had a water issue for years, “since before the brewery ever bought hops,” reminding council of “Waterless Wednesdays,” when there was no water delivery to homes and business on trucked services on that day.
Cody Dean is one of the investors in the brewery, whose business has been halted for months in the absence of sufficient water.
“The brewery has become a lightning rod for this amendment. We just want water,” Dean said.
“You create this fear that the city is going to run out of water but we’re already without water.”