06/14/2013 07:34 EDT | Updated 08/14/2013 05:12 EDT

City of Regina wants to raise requirement for waste-water plant petition

REGINA - The federal government has announced it will give up to $58.5 million to help Regina construct a new waste-water treatment plant.

But the announcement has been overshadowed by a group which doesn't like the public-private partnership arrangement for the facility.

Regina Water Watch says privatizing Regina's water system results in loss of accountability and control of a vital public resource.

The group has been circulating a petition and have already reached 19,000 out of the 20,000 signatures it needs to force a referendum.

But the group says the city has told them it has asked the province to increase the number of required signatures by 1,400.

Regina Water Watch has until June 20 to collect the required signatures, but it’s still unclear when the province will evaluate the city’s request.

Group spokesman Jim Holmes said he believes the group can get the additional signatures, but calls the move by the city troubling.

"What democratic government would change the rules for citizens trying to have their say in the middle of that? It's like changing the election rules in the middle of a provincial or federal election...It is legally permissible but I think it is morally reprehensible."

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere says the city was merely trying to "seek clarity" on which figure would be used to certify the petition.

Government Relations Minister Jim Reiter said he hasn't had a chance to go over the city's request with ministry staff, but adds his first reaction was to not agree to it.