New garbage and recycling contracts approved by Winnipeg mayor's inner circle

Mayor Brian Bowman's inner circle has approved a pair of new garbage-and-recycling collection contracts that will end Emterra Environmental service next fall.

Pending council approval, Miller and GFL will replace Emterra and Progressive next fall.

Executive policy committee has approved a pair of new recycling-and-garbage collection contracts that will end Emterra service next fall. The contracts now face council approval on Oct. 26.

Mayor Brian Bowman's inner circle has approved a pair of new garbage-and-recycling collection contracts that will end Emterra Environmental service next fall.

If approved by council on Oct. 26, Miller Waste Systems will begin collecting garbage and recyclables in the northwest half of Winnipeg in October 2017, while GFL Environmental will collect waste in the southeast.

Both contracts would run from Oct. 1, 2017, to Jan. 31, 2025. Initially, they would cost the city $24.8 million a year. The total seven-year cost may wind up at $251 million.

The two companies would replace Emterra, which has collected garbage across the city and recyclables since 2012, as well as Progressive Waste Solutions, which has collected recyclables from one quadrant of the city.

The Wednesday morning vote by executive policy committee was unanimous.

"Garbage collection is a significant service that we provide the citizens, and there is a cost associated with that. What we're being advised by the public service is that for value for money, this is the best recommendation," said Mayor Brian Bowman.

The vote took place after Couns. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) and Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan) revealed Emterra raised concerns earlier this month about the city's choice, given that GFL and Miller use diesel trucks and the Trudeau government has promised to bring in new carbon taxes.

Mayor Brian Bowman's inner circle has approved a pair of new garbage-and-recycling collection contracts that will end Emterra Environmental service next fall. 1:36
In a letter to the city dated Oct. 6, distributed via email by Eadie, Emterra's Emmie Leung said waste collection will cost the city $1 million more a year in carbon taxes if it switches to diesel trucks from vehicles that run on natural gas.

Leung offered to extend waste-collection service for one or two years while Winnipeg considers in-house collection or more environmentally friendly vehicles. Emterra offered access to its natural-gas fuelling station if the city purchases new vehicles to avoid "millions in new federal carbon taxes."

Winnipeg solid-waste manager Daryl Doubleday, however, said all four bidders for the new contracts — including Emterra — proposed to use diesel vehicles. 

Doubleday said the city will absorb the impact of carbon taxes, which the Trudeau government has pledged to put in place by 2018. The provincial government does not oppose the measure.

​The city issued its search for garbage-and-recycling collection contractors before the Trudeau government's carbon-tax announcement. Bowman said he sees no reason to delay a council vote on the GFL and Miller contracts in order to explore other forms of vehicles.

The new contracts are also opposed by the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500, the city's largest union, which wanted more time to convince the city of the merits of conducting some waste collection in house.

"We see across this country, they're bringing this work back in house at significant cost savings," CUPE 500 president Gord Delbridge told the executive policy committee before the vote.

Doubleday, however, said in-house collection would cost $7.5 million more a year. Delbridge questioned the credibility of that figure, saying no meaningful discussions have taken place between the city and his union.

Delbridge also touted a CUPE-commissioned poll, conducted by Probe Research, that suggests 59 per cent of Winnipeg residents surveyed believe the city should look into having city workers carry out waste collection before signing any new contracts.

Probe surveyed a random sample of 600 Winnipeg adults by telephone Sept. 13-26. The results are considered accurate within four percentage points 19 times out of 20 compared to a sample size of the entire Winnipeg adult population.

At least five members of council support CUPE's position: Eadie, Schreyer, Shawn Dobson (St. Charles), Russ Wyatt (Transcona) and Matt Allard (St. Boniface).​

The City of Winnipeg privatized garbage collection services in 2005 with the goal of achieving cost savings through increased competition.

The Emterra contract, however, proved to be a public-relations disaster for the city during its initial year, due to missed pickups. Council water-and-waste chair Brian Mayes (St. Vital) blamed the poor service in part upon the short, seven-month lead time granted to Emterra.

If council approves the new contracts later this month, Miller and GFL will have 11 months to prepare.

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.