Medicine Hat News
Possible sale of public utilities comes as a shock
Like most Hatters, I was shocked to hear news of a possible sale of our public utilities. For generations, residents have enjoyed the benefits of public utilities, giving us the “Medicine Hat Advantage.” So where did we go wrong? How have we been seemingly backed into a corner with no option other than having this workhorse, an economic driver in our community, put on the chopping block? Was it profligate spending or inattentiveness by previous councils? We’ve taken capital investment risks over the years; where’s the political will to take a risk and transition to renewables on a known asset?
Residents should have been made aware of what was on the line over the past years, and plans for conversion to renewables (if that is indeed the issue) should have been factored into budgets long past. Changes to rates, dividends, or taxes should have been made if necessary and explained thoroughly. Even now, all possibilities must be exhausted before taking this irrevocable step — and as the owners of these public utilities, the people of Medicine Hat need to be satisfied that this has happened through clear communication from the city.
With 20 per cent of children in the Medicine Hat region already living in poverty, we know any increase in utility costs or fees will be a burden on the families of Medicine Hat and have adverse social and economic impacts on all households and businesses.
Increased pressure will be felt downstream on city services, social agencies, educators and the local economy. We know with time will come inevitable increases in taxes and other living costs — should profit to private shareholders on utilities be one of them?
There are some who feel that cities shouldn’t be in the business of utility ownership, but good governance does not include a race to the bottom to see who can provide the fewest services to their residents.
Alison Van Dyke Medicine Hat