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Whistler Water Watch rallies voters against P3

892 names needed to reverse council decision or force referendum

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Members of Whistler Water Watch have begun their campaign of collecting signatures to halt a proposed P3 at the sewage treatment plant.

There has been no official count on the number of signatures collected to date but the group has been working door-to-door and soliciting signatures in high traffic areas around town, such as the compactor sites, the bottle depot and the skateboard park.

In order to make a difference, and possibly reverse council’s decision, Whistler Water Watch needs 892 names – that’s the municipality’s estimate of 10 per cent of the eligible voters in the resort municipality.

Sara Jennings, who is coordinating the Watch’s efforts, said the group is trying to remain as neutral as possible while informing Whistlerites of council’s plan to put the $35 million upgrades and the long term operations (10 years) of the plant in the hands of a private company.

"We don’t want to be seen as leading people in any way," she said. "And so we’ve been very careful in what we say and how we say it."

Members of the local chapter of the Council of Canadians have also been involved in collecting signatures under Whistler Water Watch.

Jennings said a number of people she has stopped have been fairly informed about the situation – more so than in weeks past.

"There is this worry that people are signing with not a full understanding of the issue and our position is basically that even the people who have been looking at this for months don’t have a full understanding of the issue," said Jennings. "So it’s a hard concept to grapple with."

She has been pointing people to the Watch’s website and the municipality’s website to learn more.

Mayor Ken Melamed was not surprised to hear the group was collecting signatures. The P3 decision, which was made during the previous council’s term, has been controversial, he admitted.

"I think that’s fair game," said Melamed, of the groups’ efforts in the APP. He also suggested the APP is more democratic than a referendum which would draw out the opposition more so than its supporters.

Council was required by legislation to hold an Alternative Approval Process (AAP) on the P3. That’s because they are proposing to enter a contract, longer than five years, that has capital liabilities.

If 10 per cent of voters sign the AAP form, council must reconsider its options. Its choices at that point are to either take the issue to a referendum or abandon the P3 plans.

Whistler Water Watch is a community group dedicated to educating Whistler residents about the threats of P3s and their effects on publicly-owned utilities.

To learn more about the proposed P3 visit www.whistlerwatch.org.

AAP forms can be picked up at municipal hall and must be dropped off before the June 12 deadline.

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