Capital, Accumulation, and Crisis: Surveying the Neoliberal Waterscape of Municipal Privatization in Canada




Lang, Michael Keith

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While the outright privatization of water services has declined globally, it has been replaced with public-private partnerships (P3s) in the government procurement and delivery of water services, and increasingly at the local level. This research finds that such initiatives are on the rise in Canada, and considering the overall record of failure that has amounted from varied types of water privatization thus far, it seeks to analyze this expanding waterscape from a critical perspective. More specifically, by historically situating the privatization of Canadian municipal water in a political-economic context that identifies its relation to contemporary (neoliberal) capitalism, this research examines how the focused state commitment to water P3s is indicative of the processes of neoliberalization. I argue that regulatory and budgetary changes since the economic crisis of 2008 have formed an institutionalized policy apparatus that essentially forces needy municipalities into long-term contracts with private firms, therefore establishing sustained sites for capital accumulation. This thesis concludes with a discussion concerning the implications that such a “partnership” will have for municipal autonomy, organized labour, and the environment, particularly in light of the intensifying state focus on international free trade.



P3, PPP, public-private partnerships, Canadian municipal governance, water privatization, water resource management