People in Regina have voted to fund the city's wastewater plant upgrade through a public-private partnership (P3).
According to the Regina Referendum website 49,013 people voted in the city-wide referendum.
Unofficial results show 27,988 people voted "NO", meaning they wanted a P3 funding model, which was initially approved by council earlier this year. The "YES" votes supporting the traditional design-bid-build plan tallied to 21,025.
That's 57.1 per cent for the No side, 42.9 per cent for the Yes side.
Official results will be announced on Friday at 1 p.m. CST at City Hall.
"I'll just say that the people have spoken and the people are always right," said Regina's Mayor Michael Fougere.
"I'm very proud of the campaign we ran," he continued. "I'm proud that people came out in large numbers to express their opinion on a very important issue for our city. I'm very proud of the results."
Fougere said the city will be moving forward with the P3 plan right away. Officials had to stop the process because of the referendum.
There have been expressions of interest from at least 10 companies to build and maintain the wastewater treatment plant, he said. The next step is to evaluate the pitches and pick the top three contenders.
"The contract will be a public record as soon as it is negotiated," said Fougere.
Fougere said council wants the wastewater treatment plant finished by Dec. 31. 2016, which is when new regulations for emission standards come into effect.
Plant upgrade costs could be as high a $224 million — the federal government will pay up to $58.8 million of that amount.
Holmes still smiling despite loss
The referendum came about after a group named Regina Water Watch collected thousands of signatures on a petition in an effort to stop the city's plan for a private-public partnership.
Jim Holmes, the head of the group who has led the campaign for the design-bid-build model, was still smiling Wednesday night despite the loss, by 6,963 votes.
"I think we were more optimistic than that going into it," said Holmes. "We were up against very tough competition. We were outspent and vilified and everything else."
"On the bright side ... there's this huge group of people that came together to fight city hall, which is supposed to be impossible," he added. "We didn't quite pull it off but we came close."
In terms of the future of the city, Holmes said there are two things that people seem to be concerned about.
"One of them is the trend towards the privatization of extremely important services," said Holmes. "The other one [is] the importation of Republican-style politics into Canada. I don't think there's any question about that."
Holmes said he'll be spending his day gardening Thursday and says that the Water Watch group does not plan to appeal the referendum result.