Regina Councillor supports sewage treatment plant referendum

July 22, 2013 - 3:32pm
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The Regina Water Watch group gathers outside City Hall before submitting petition/Photo by Patrick Book
The Regina Water Watch group gathers outside City Hall before submitting petition/Photo by Patrick Book

At least one Regina councillor thinks a referendum needs to happen despite a rejected sewage plant petition.

Shawn Fraser originally voted in favour of the public-private partnership to pay for the plant but he believes enough people signed a petition opposed to the P3 model to make an impression.

"I voted to apply for the federal money for P3 procurement as well. So far as I know, all the information I've been able to take in, with the federal funding of $58 million this is still the cheapest option for the city. I also understand that for some people they think otherwise and I think this is a chance to have a public conversation about those numbers."

The city clerk deemed the petition, which was circulated by a group of civic and environmental activists and the Canadian Union of Public Employees calling itself Regina Water Watch, invalid on Friday. Several thousands of signatures were disallowed because the person signing didn't supply the correct information along with their name. Roughly 2,800 were eliminated for not including the year the petition was signed, although the group argued that is overly punitive because the idea of a P3 partnership for a new waste water treatment plant hasn't been around in any other year.

Fraser feels that the aim of the petition seemed very clear.

"Twenty-four thousand signatures initially, some of them technically invalid it sounds like, but to me the spirit and intent of that is pretty clear. And obviously this is an important issue to a lot of people."

Mayor Michael Fougere continues to remain firm in his position that the P3 model is the best option for the city. But reached Monday morning he admitted that he had spent the weekend trying to canvas as many people as possible for their thoughts.

"I've spoken with my Council colleagues, we've chatted. I've spoken with the public, I had many meetings over the weekend, I talked with many people on the street, there were phone calls I returned," he explained. "I've had lots of time to reflect on this."

He says he stands by the City Clerk's work on the verification process, insisting the petition was flawed and insufficient.

But he wouldn't say if he felt Council should call a referendum, which is still an option even though the petition that would've compelled them to have a vote was struck down. He said he was looking forward to hearing the presentations from the public that were sure to come.

However, later in the afternoon a news release came from the Mayor's office indicating he would be holding a "media briefing" on the petition. That will happen a full hour before the special City Council meeting struck to consider the petition and what the next step will be. The city's web site lists 20 delegates who plan to speak to the referendum.

Keep checking this web site through the evening for the latest on that meeting.