Keep Drainage Edmonton hosts legal expert to champion Gold Bar Wastewater
EDMONTON, Jan. 19 /CNW Telbec/ - On Monday, January 19, the Keep Drainage
Edmonton coalition will host international trade law expert Steven Shrybman,
of the law firm Sack Goldblatt Mitchell, for a media availability session to
discuss the proposed sale of the Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plant to EPCOR.
Mr. Shrybman will be working with the coalition, meeting City
Councillors, and will make a presentation to Council during the Public Hearing
scheduled for Tuesday, January 20. Mr. Shrybman prepared an opinion for Keep
Drainage Edmonton coalition member organization CUPE Local 30 that
demonstrates how the sale of Gold Bar could contravene trade restrictions in
the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Mr. Shrybman will be available to the media for one hour, beginning at
10:00 a.m. on Monday. He will also take calls by telephone during that period.
WHO: International trade law expert Steven Shrybman
WHERE: Media Room, City Hall
WHEN: 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Monday, January 19
The argument with respect to NAFTA that will be put forward by the
coalition, previously shared with City Council, is summarized on the following
1. In discussing the proposed sale of the Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment
Plant, the City Manager has explicitly stated that at least part of
the rationale is to improve EPCOR's competitiveness in other markets,
including American markets. So expressed, Sack Goldblatt Mitchell's
opinion is that this objective represents a breach of NAFTA Article
1102 because it discriminates against foreign investors, especially
any that might wish themselves to obtain Gold Bar's assets through a
competitive bid process.
2. A breach of Article 1102 entitles foreign investors to invoke the
dispute provisions of Chapter 11 to claim damages for having been
denied fair treatment. One such case currently under arbitration
relating to the health sector, in which Canadian policy is
significantly clearer than it is for wastewater treatment, is for
damages of $155 million.
3. If such a claim were made, it would be resolved by a private
international arbitration tribunal typically operating out of World
Bank headquarters in Washington D.C. Neither Alberta, nor Edmonton
would be entitled to standing in such proceedings.
4. If the Gold Bar Plant was sold to an arms-length corporation,
notwithstanding that it was owned by the City, NAFTA rules would
impose significant constraints on the future policy and regulatory
options available to Edmonton in relation to the Plant. The City's
insistence that it would retain authority to set drainage rates for
citizens would not be matched by an equal authority to direct
environmental standards or best practices. It should be also noted
that even regulatory regimes may be challenged under NAFTA if they are
deemed to negatively affect the profit potential of any business.
5. In sum, while Edmonton is entitled to maintain public ownership of
municipal facilities and infrastructure, if it wishes to privatize
such assets, it must comply with the free market principles that are
central to NAFTA. These prohibit limiting the sale of the Gold Bar
Plant to a particular investor, in this case EPCOR, because NAFTA
requires such entities to be treated no differently than those of its
privately owned competitors.
For further information:
For further information: Alf Hryciw, (780) 974-7403