Media Advisory - Proposed Gold Bar sale may contravene NAFTA

    Keep Drainage Edmonton hosts legal expert to champion Gold Bar Wastewater
    Treatment Plant

    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

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Canadian Union of Public Employees - Alberta Regional Office

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