It has been a hot summer this year, in more ways than one. The CRD’s “failed” sewage treatment plan continues to generate a lot of heat but not the kind that powers our lights or warms our homes. It’s heat of the political kind, turned up on Esquimalt’s local Mayor and Council, as well as Esquimalt residents, because of their refusal to allow a treatment plant to be built at McLoughlin Point.
The fear mongering and finger-pointing aimed at Esquimalt are unfortunate consequences in my view, and do not demonstrate the kind of leadership that I believe we need at this stage. If the ultimate goal is to get the parties back to the CRD table to work together cooperatively on other options, how can this very public “blame and shame” approach possibly engender positive feelings that would create a conducive environment that enables constructive collaboration? I voted against Oak Bay Mayor and Council sending Esquimalt a letter to re-consider its decision, believing then as I do now, that Esquimalt residents have spoken through due process and that we should respect their voices and their autonomy.
I support sewage treatment and working with neighbouring municipalities to explore other technologies and options. For example, a sub-regional system, such as those located in Sechelt, Sooke, on Salt Spring Island and on the Saanich Peninsula, is a viable option in my view. In fact, while I was a North Saanich Council member, I was Council Liaison to the Saanich Peninsula Wastewater/Water Commission, the commission that overseas the Saanich Peninsula sewage treatment plant situated in North Saanich just above the Pat Bay Highway to the west. If you have never seen the plant from the highway, that’s the whole idea. It’s discreetly placed on property owned by the CRD, it’s secondary treatment, it serves three municipalities and some of the sludge heats the Panorama Rec Centre’s swimming pool. There are also future plans to provide heating to an elementary school across the street, the Centre for Plant Health on East Saanich Road and private homes nearby, for those who choose to sign on.
Seaterra’s single big treatment plant proposal is, as I understand it, older technology (18th century old technology) and the estimated $788M to build the plant (and climbing) results in only secondary treatment, not tertiary. Everyone on both sides of the issue continue to weigh in but, in all the rhetoric and posturing, there simply must be a better process that will move our region forward and protect taxpayers from inflated costs —- certainly it appears that other communities believe so, as some Mayors and Councils are already getting together to explore new sewage treatment technologies and options.
As for the federal grant funding, I was recently told that the Federal Minister has apparently not yet signed off on the funds. How is it then that the CRD risks losing money that is so far not guaranteed until Minister Moore has signed on the dotted line?
This week, the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation released a 48-page report about Seaterra, suggesting that the actual costs to CRD taxpayers will be much more if the proposed amenities offered to Esquimalt by the CRD are accepted and implemented. They argue that the “bribe” should leave CRD taxpayers “Seaterr-ified.”
It’s all very confusing for taxpayers I suspect, but the bottom line for me is that CRD Directors need to change the channel, demonstrating leadership that creates an atmosphere of goodwill. Sewage treatment is a given, deadlines seem fixed and now it’s up to local community leaders to find a constructive and positive way forward, together.