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Abbotsford P3 water project rejected by voters

A controversial public-private partnership deal for an Abbotsford water works project was rejected in a city referendum this Saturday.

Seventy-four per cent of voters rejected the $291 million Stave Lake Water Project, a proposed new water source for the city. The project had already received federal financial backing of $65.7 million.

Abbotsford councillor Patricia Ross, the sole incumbent in Saturday's municipal election to oppose the project, said she wasn't surprised voters turned the P3 down, but that she didn't expect such a wide margin of no votes.

"It's quite shocking," she said. "It sends a real message that people are not interested in P3, and I think they were not happy with the way this whole thing was handled."

Ross was reelected to council with just under 20,000 votes, the highest any councillor received. She said it's time for council to get back to work, and start exploring new water source options for the city.

"We definitely have to roll up our sleeves and figure this out -- a non-P3 solution," she said.

George Peary, former Abbotsford mayor and outspoken supporter of the P3, had maintained that a Stave Lake P3 was the lowest cost option meeting water quality and quantity requirements for Abbotsford.

Peary was narrowly defeated by mayoral challenger Bruce Banman on Saturday.

"Certainly I was the champion of the P3 water project, and it went down dramatically. It was worse than I thought it would be, quite frankly," Peary told the Abbotsford Times.

Ross said the City will advance a new water solution "sooner rather than later."

"We need to have far more public consultation in finding that solution," she said. "We'll roll out the options to people, pros, cons, and we'll figure it out."

Robyn Smith reports and edits for The Tyee.

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