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City’s utility sale may counter NAFTA: Lawyer

The city could risk contravening the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if it sells the Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plant to Epcor, says a lawyer who will be making a presentation to city council today.

The city could risk contravening the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if it sells the Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plant to Epcor, says a lawyer who will be making a presentation to city council today.

Steven Shybman, who will be making the presentation with a coalition of environmentalists, doctors, union leaders and private citizens against the plan, says selling the plant would give the company a competitive advantage over other markets — something that goes against NAFTA.

And the move could also force other utility companies to launch legal challenges against the city because those companies “are not being treated fairly under the free trade agreement,” he said.

“Those trade rules apply to city council, as well as the federal government,” said Shybman who is with the law firm Sack Goldblatt Mitchell.

“There are real risks associated with this sale, and (council) has to be very cautious in proceeding with it.”

The city is considering selling the public utility to Epcor for about $190 million that it will collect over the next 10 years, including a $75 million transfer fee and dividend payments.

A coalition group that includes the Alberta Federation of Labour, the Sierra Club of Canada and the Parkland Institute have created a campaign urging residents to call city hall demanding their drainage services remains public.

A public hearing into the plan will begin today at city hall and then council is expected to make its final decision.

 
 
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