Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Concerns over city's water partnership plans spur on community organizing meeting in Prince Rupert

Work on the Woodwordh Dam project from the 
State of the City presentation earlier this year
(photo from City of PR)

Our notes of yesterday related to a City of Prince Rupert call for expressions of interest towards a partnership on water infrastructure plans for a water treatment plant have caught the eye of a local community organizer. 

With the topic one which has Tom Kertes set to host an organizing meeting on November 6th to investigate the city's plans further and to motivate the public to speak out against the concept.

The community organizer was most recently involved on water issues back in the days of extensive Boil Water advisories related to the city's water supply from Shawatlans Lake.

Mr. Kertes, who is also involved in the area labour movement highlights the topic of the challenges towards public infrastructure and what the public should be wary of.

“Listening to political leaders throughout the recent election provided a few hints of possible plans brewing to reorganize how the city may want to finance and run its public water and sewer systems, possibly going even beyond announced plans for a proposed build-operation of a water treatment facility, 

Whenever public dollars are used to pay for public services, we should aim to maximize the public benefits that will result. We can maximize public benefits by hiring local union labour, insisting on transparency in how decisions are made, and putting accountability measures in place. 

Every dollar spent should result in the most benefit possible to the community as a whole.”

The prospect of a public/private partnership on infrastructure did not make for a topic of note during the recent municipal election campaign, despite infrastructure making for some of the narrative to that election period.

The potential shift in how the city plans to operate its civic water infrastructure is the kind of thing you might expect the elected council members to discuss in a public Council session, prior to putting out a bid for expressions of interest.

But like the recent election campaign, the past City Council sessions have offered no indication that the concept was the focus for the current mayor and six council members, five of whom have since been returned to office as of Saturday nights results.

The City's Request for Expressions of Interest through BC Bid, was designed with potential partners in mind, with a Question and Answer opportunity currently underway for those interested in participation to seek out more information.

Yet, for the public that will be funding some of any potential partnership, there has yet to be any information offered up to what would be a change in focus towards municipal spending and operations.

The current collective on City Council will have one more chance to share their thoughts on the topic on Monday, when they host the final Council session for the current term and the final opportunity for farewells from Mayor Lee Brain and Councillor Blair Mirau.

What they all may have to say on the topic of public/private infrastructure, may serve to provide more information for the public session hosted by Mr. Kertes set for November.

click to enlarge

The topic of the city's plans for water treatment was part  of the recent State of the City presentation, where Mayor Brain noted of the challenges of building infrastructure in the region. 

Though at that time, there was no mention by the Mayor of plans for an imminent Public/Private partnership, or what such a concept might look like.

In his invitation to the public meeting of November 6, Mr. Kertes observes on the long list of work ahead for civic infrastructure.

As Prince Rupert continues to renew its municipal water, sewer, road, and other public infrastructure systems, residents will come together to provide oversight over how financing, contracting out, and other measures may impact the long-term interests of city residents and local government. 

The city has hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed public infrastructure investments, requiring a large inflow of capital. The price tag for these proposed priorities is currently beyond our immediate means, which requires decisions on the speed, scale, and structure of the renewal process.

Towards the planning for the meeting, the organizers note of the prospect of needing a larger venue should there be significant public interest in their session.

The meeting will be held in person and will be off-line because the point is to hear different points of view and to listen to each other directly. If more people RSVP than expected, the meeting will be moved to a larger space. 

There are many questions stemming from the always-present mix of rumours, hints, and official announcements. Rather than speculate on “what’s really happening” the discussion will seek facts and request direct dialogue with city decision makers. 

With this information, the aim is to put together a complete puzzle of what’s being planned by the city, so that residents can avoid any privatization pitfalls as its renewal efforts continue. 

Participants will also discuss the value of public infrastructure, the value of government control and operation of public programs and services, and the value of maximizing the public benefits through public infrastructure investments. 

Any community members interested in attending what is described as an informal gathering to discuss how to help the city avoid any privatization pitfall,  can contact Mr Kertes by phone, text, or email to RSVP (778-884-5343 or 

The progress for the City's ongoing work on infrastructure projects can be followed through our Major Projects and Infrastructure Archive page.


  1. On the one hand the mayor and council have invested in commercial ventures to make money - Watson Island, a bar, etc - while on the other they seem to be open to allowing private companies to make money from public infrastructure. There seems to be a contradiction there. In both cases transparency and public accountability have been lacking.

  2. Is our operations department at the city experts at wastewater, no.
    Do we have the local talent to staff a wastewater facility with a focus from tap to drain, no.
    You can't just hire Johnny's nephew from down the street to run it.
    Qualifications -

    This RFP looks like it includes a 20 year plan to have qualified trained experts transition to the city or district to actually operate the facilities.

    I see nothing nefarious here.

    1. So you think that the City of Prince Rupert is incapable of hiring qualified and trained people and running those operations? Water and sanitation, along with local streets, lighting, fire protection, parks and recreation are among the core functions of a municipal government and why they receive financial support from the Province. It's logistics parks and acting as the landlord of a drinking establishment and other retail buildings that are outside of a municipality's usual functions. < >

    2. Incapable short term being 1-3 years yes.
      Capable long term being 20 years of training and transition, maybe

    3. That's a rather bracing comment on the City's capacity to deliver municipal services, and ultimately on the ability of its management team, but perhaps you have the inside track. The City may be relying too much on people hired from down the street rather than recruiting qualified talent from outside like other, even quite small, municipalities do.