City of Regina Mayor Michael Fougere and Regina Water Watch spokesman Jim Holmes held public debates on consecutive nights—September 18 and 19—in Regina, as they made attempts to sway voters before the upcoming September 25 referendum over the city’s proposed wastewater treatment facility.

The referendum will decide whether or not the city will pursue a public-private partnership (P3) funding model for the proposed $234-million treatment plant. A ‘yes’ vote supports Regina Water Watch’s stance against a P3.

The first debate took place at the University of Regina, and was well attended, attracting over 400 spectators. The second, held at a Travelodge Hotel, attracted 50-60. Both Holmes and Fougere answered questions from the audience on both occasions.

On Thursday night, Holmes argued that engaging the private sector in the water system could leave the city in a tight spot down the line.

“When something needs to happen, when requirements change for treating that wastewater…we’re going to have to go back and renegotiate with that company,” the Regina Leader-Post reported him as saying. “But the reality is we’re going to be locked in a 30-year contract. We are probably at the weakest imaginable bargaining position to try and deal with them.”

Mayor Fourgere, meanwhile, highlighted the financial benefits of P3s. “In a design-bid-build, very bluntly said, all the risk rests with the owner which is the citizens of Regina,” he said on Wednesday night, according to Global News. “Seventy per cent of public projects are over budget.”

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