There is a famous expression in politics that, no matter what level of government candidates seek to represent, everything always goes back to the motto: “All politics is local”. It basically means that a politician's success is directly tied to an ability to understand and influence the issues most important to constituents’ concerns within their own community. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Esquimalt during the 2011 federal election.
CRD Sewage Plan?
First, some background. Going back a few years, the provincial government directed the Capital Regional District to fully revamp Greater Victoria’s current sewage treatment system. As part of that direction, both the provincial and federal governments agreed to each contribute $250 million towards the billion-dollar project. The remainder of funding would be paid through local property tax increases of about $400 per household per year for long into the future.
In 2010, the Capital Regional District adopted a plan that would place the CRD’s sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt. Last summer, the provincial government approved the plan. Since then, several months have passed and both the Province and the Feds have delayed putting each of their cheques in the mail. Meanwhile, Esquimalt Council has officially opposed the plan, pointing out the project’s many short-sighted economic and environmental pitfalls as well as the fact that Esquimalt was never properly consulted.
“It’s a bad deal and a long-term burden for taxpayers, and there are several serious problems with the McLoughlin Point location, including the fact that 400,000 tourists travel pass this location every year, and that the site is not expandable,” said Mayor Barb Desjardins at the time.
Within a mere couple of decades, the proposed location's size will no longer meet the needs of the region’s growing population. New sewage facilities will again need to be constructed at different locations at additional giant costs to future taxpayers. The site is also far too limited in size to allow for any resource recovery, which is the best possible system for the environment and that helps pay for itself by converting sewage into green energy sources. Read more at: www.thewrongplan.ca
All hope is not lost, however. The project cannot proceed until the partnership funding is finally delivered by both the federal and provincial governments.
Hence, EsquimaltReview.comsurveyed all four of the Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca federal election candidates this week to find out just where they stand on the issue. The responses were shocking. All four candidates finally found an issue that all four of them fully agree on: the current CRD sewage plan is the wrong plan. All the candidates clearly indicated that the McLoughlin Point plan will not work and that the CRD must reconsider their plan in order for it to have the funding support of whoever becomes our new Member of Parliament. Essentially, the candidates are spanking the CRD and sending it back to its room to teach it some respect for the people of Esquimalt and for taxpayers all across the region.
Here are the survey results from the four Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca candidates:
Do you support the current CRD Sewage Treatment Plan to locate the CRD's sewage treatment at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt?All four candidates answered “NO”.
What is your position on the current CRD sewage treatment plan that has been approved by the CRD and is awaiting committed federal and provincial funding of $250 million each?
Candidate: Troy DeSouza (Conservative)
Answer:“I believe in sewage treatment. I do not believe that this is the best location for this sewage treatment plant. I also have concerns with the plan to truck the sludge 18 kilometers. There needs to be further discussion on this issue in consultation with the community.”
Candidate: Randall Garrison (NDP)
Answer: “The federal government should support sewage treatment in Victoria but must ensure that the plant we build is the most modern and environmentally sound possible. It must maximize resource recovery both as a contribution to sustainability and also to generate revenues to help defray operating costs.”
Candidate: Lillian Szpak (Liberal)
Answer: “I think we need to make sure that we have the right sewage treatment plant in the right location. That means consulting widely, addressing concerns and making sure that the region's future needs are considered. When a decision is made, the plan – and the reasons behind it – should be communicated clearly, so that everyone understands what will happen and why. I think there's a real opportunity for incorporation of some innovative technologies (heat and energy capture and production, for example), and those should be taken advantage of.”
Candidate: Shaunna Salsman (Green Party)
Answer: “This is not a sustainable plan for the future! Unfortunately, we need more forward thinking when investing in such an infrastructure. I do feel we should be treating our sewage, but there are many other more advanced technologies we could be utilizing. This is just another bad plan by our government to feel good about our environment.”
When asked for comment on the candidate survey results, Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said: “I am pleased the candidates all agree this is the wrong plan. I am also pleased that the candidates acknowledge that consultation and work with communities should occur.”
Take that, CRD! You have failed to serve the best interests of taxpayers, the best interests of the environment, and you have done this without any proper consultation with the people that it impacts most.
But, the CRD does deserve credit for achieving the impossible: uniting all four federal candidates in one of the nation’s most competitive constituencies.