Why I Support Public Water and Public Sewer

I support public water and public sewer for Prince Rupert for these reasons:

  1. I don’t want to pay more for my water and sewer service. I prefer to save money.
  2. It makes sense to run water and sewer as a monopoly (because this saves money) but this requires that the city control and operate the system (again, because this saves money).
  3. I believe in the local government’s capacity to provide quality services to city residents and businesses. We should retain local control over our city’s water and sewer system.

We all need water and sewer services. We need clean water to survive. A city simply won’t work without a sewer system. That’s why every home and every business in Prince Rupert is hooked up to the city’s water and sewer system. We need both systems to live here.

City governments exist to serve residents and businesses with the basics required for people to live together in tight quarters: Trash and recycling needs to be managed. We need roads to connect homes and businesses to each other and to the world beyond the city. We need airports and seaports for the same reasons. We need power lines, water lines, sewer lines, and communication lines. We need police and fire protection.

For these kinds of essential services, the most efficient way to provide them is through public monopolies.

Take fire services as an example. It makes no sense to have more than one fire service that would duplicate each other and compete for customers. If there were two systems in our town, why have double the needed stations, double the needed trucks, double the needed firefighters? And what would you do if your neighbour opted out of having a fire service – and then their fire spreads to your house? Instead, we have one fire service that everyone pays into and that provides service for everyone. Nobody can opt out of it and we all benefit because of that.

We do the same for water and sewer service. Imagine if there were several water systems providing these services on a commercial basis. They’d overlap each other. Everything would be duplicated. (And some people may have no service since only profitable properties would be attract the attention of the providers.) We don’t have multiple water and sewer systems because it would be a colossal waste of money to do things that way. Instead, we pool our resources as residents and businesses and share one system between all of us.

Monopolies are efficient. They cost less to operate. But they can be more expensive for customers or users, because the operators of monopolies don’t have any competition. They can charge the highest possible price, especially if the monopoly controls something that everyone actually needs (like water, fire protection, police protection, sewage, trash and recycling collection, etc.). That’s why we need our monopolies to be publicly run – under the oversight of our elected leaders.

Cities operate monopolies that are directly accountable to residents and businesses because we live in a democracy. We elect the people in charge of the monopolies that we all depend on. This is how we can have the efficiency of the monopoly without paying the price of a monopoly. Because government is elected, voters want to have the needed service at the lowest price. Political leaders know this and that is why core city services are done efficiently and at a lower cost than the private sector would provide for these kinds of services (core city services).

(And, cities don’t make profits. That saves us from having to pay higher prices to cover profit margins.)

I believe in the system we have. I believe in local democracy and I like how it functions to make us work together as a community. Our system is not perfect and requires that active participation by everyone, but the system does a good job of balancing out interests and connecting everyone together.

Under this system of local government, we rely on each other to meet our needs together. I believe that our system of government and our system of sharing local resources and services works well. And that’s why I want to keep our water and sewer system under municipal operation and control.

Keeping public water and public sewer public saves money. It supports community. It strengthens local democracy. It allows us to control how services are provided at the local level. And it helps us work together for the benefit of the community as a whole.

Tom Kertes is a public school teacher in Prince Rupert, in the territory of the Ts’msyen.