On Wednesday, April 12, City Council voted 7-6 in favour of transferring drainage services to EPCOR. Drainage services are set to be transferred to EPCOR within six months.
EPCOR has assured the city that the transfer will not result in layoffs for those currently working in the drainage department with the city. And, before the vote a clause was added to the deal that would ensure that the public can use the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection (FOIPP) or a similar process to acquire information about EPCOR.
EPCOR already manages Edmonton’s water and wastewater services, and proposed this transfer, stating that consolidating drainage services with the water services they already provide would save citizens money. They also argued that acquiring management of the city’s drainage assets would develop the expertise they need to collect more business outside of the city. EPCOR has operations in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. These other operations account for 10 percent of the profits. These profits are returned to the city, and are so invested in the city itself. EPCOR believes that by gaining this expertise that they can get more business outside of Edmonton, which would return more profits to Edmonton.
The vote itself was close. I voted against the transfer. Even though the motion still passed, I still feel that voting against it was the right decision. I do not see a reason to make such a change. Drainage services are a large aspect of the city, and it affects every citizen. It is an essential service that needs to be transparent.
While the City of Edmonton owns EPCOR, it is still a different relationship than having the service be managed by the city directly. This is still an arm’s-length entity, and so we will have a different type and amount of control over it.
Additionally, the lack of public process was a significant point of contention for me. There was one public meeting regarding the change since EPCOR proposed it last year.
EPCOR has heard my concerns, and the concerns of others, regarding this transfer. I am hopeful that they will keep these concerns in mind and that the transfer will benefit Edmontonians.