November 19, 2012








ARESST: Just because sewage plant advocates Ben Isitt (PhD History)  or even Dr. Edward Ishiguro (biochem, micriobiology but not oceanography or field marine biologist)  doesn't make them any more expert on sewage treatment then Vic Derman and Graham Hill!

Come to support Derman and Hill  at the Oak Bay Town Hall because Isitt and Graham supporters will be there! Wear your yellow tshirt too because Mr Floatie might show up!


Town Hall Dialogue on the CRD Sewage Treatment Project,
Oak Bay High School Auditorium
November 21, 7pm, 

Google map site:

OpenVictoria, a non-partisan citizen’s organization committed to advancing greater citizen participation, transparency and accountability in the municipal decision-making process, believes sufficient public concern is now being expressed throughout the CRD to warrant further engagement and discussion about this project before the shovels come out.

To that end Open Victoria urges everyone to come to a Town Hall Dialogue Nov. 21 at 7pm at the Oak Bay Auditorium.

We emphasize the word “dialogue.” The format will be a community discussion, rather than a debate or a one-sided public relations event. The sole purpose of the evening is to provide the public an opportunity to understand and make sense of the opposing perspectives on the sewage treatment project.

Members of the CRD Board, each accompanied by scientific and/or technical experts (e.g. scientist, engineer, public health official) will provide their perspective (for or against) on the project, followed by a moderated Q&A session based on questions from the audience.

To date, Board member Ben Isitt (in favour), University of Victoria professor Dr. Edward Ishiguro, Board member Vic Derman  and Board member Graham Hill (both opposed) have agreed to participate. Additional participants may be added, we will update the list accordingly. As well,  Murray Langdon has been confirmed as moderator.

Derry McDonell, 
Open Victoria



Advocates rush to rethink strategy amid growing opposition

Rob Shaw
Times Colonist
November 18, 2012

Advocates of Greater Victoria's sewage treatment plan - including the infamous Mr. Floatie - are scrambling to come up with a counter-offensive to the growing opposition that threatens to scuttle the megaproject.

Environmental groups and activists who helped push the B.C. government to order treatment for the region in 2006 admit they have been caught off guard by increased opposition to the $783-million treatment project in recent months.

The critics, including former health officials and university scientists, have spearheaded a campaign to cancel the Capital Regional District's treatment plan. District's treatment plan. More than 50 people showed up last week to speak in opposition to the project at a regional sewage committee meeting. Only three people argued in

With a vote set for late November on whether to suspend work until 2040, many on the pro-treatment plan side say they have to jump back into public consciousness to even out the debate.

"People need to be reassured wastewater treatment is not the bogeyman that the [opposition] groups are making it out to be," said Christianne Wilhelm-son, executive director of the Georgia Strait Alliance, a leading advocate of the treatment plan for years.

"It makes it sound like nobody in the world is doing secondary treatment and no community has ever had to deal with this before."

Both sides have experts who can't agree whether the current local practice of discharging 129 million litres of screened sewage into the ocean each day is causing environmental harm. One speaker at a recent meeting likened the debate to reading biblical scripture, where people find opposing meaning from the same words.

Critics have focused on how the plan to build a single plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt is too expensive and provides little environmental benefit.

"To be honest, many of the arguments from the anti-treatment people are based on false assumptions and cherry-picking of information," Wilhelmson said.

"But there's no doubt they've garnered a certain amount of traction in some parts of the community. And they are being very vocal. But I still firmly believe most people in the CRD agree with us and agree with the CRD plan."

The resurrection of the pro-treatment movement has many wondering if we will see the return of Mr.

Floatie, the infamous costumed piece of feces, who crashed public meetings, embarrassed politicians and focused international media attention on the issue six years ago.

Not necessarily, said creator James Skwarok, who is poised re-enter the campaign without his costumed alter ego.

"I don't think anybody wants Mr. Floatie to resurface," said Skwarok, a local teacher pursuing a master's degree in education.

"If necessary, we'll have to bring him back. But I would hope we don't have to. I just think we need to sort the valid concerns from the bogus theories."

Both sides of the debate agree Mr. Floatie is embarrassing.

Wilhelmson said that embarrassment at one point helped the region understand that dumping raw sewage into the ocean was unacceptable. Critics say Mr. Floatie was an example of emotion-based public policy that ignored scientific reasoning.

Like Wilhelmson, Skwarok admits the pro-treatment side may have underestimated critics and now needs to publicly reintroduce its science and supporters.

At one point, opponents of the sewage plan admitted they were worried about "waking the dragon" of Mr. Floatie and his environmental allies, said Richard Atwell, organizer of

But with momentum on their side - along with thousands of signatures opposing the project and a growing group of volunteers - they are confident they could defeat the once-mighty mascot.

"I don't think he's going to come back, but if he does we'll take him on," Atwell said.

"I think it'd be quite risky, myself, because I think the public has moved beyond Mr. Floatie."

Atwell said a debate against pro-treatment plan groups is healthy for the community.

"I think it's good because we want to air all the facts out," he said.

"We've kind of been dancing around the issue for a long time, so having those other groups come out ... they all have their own particular angle on the whole thing, and that needs to be aired out in public."


Cindy E. Harnett
Times Colonist
November 16, 2012

Victoria byelection Conservative candidate Dale Gann went against his own party Thursday by rejecting the proposed $783-million secondary sewage treatment plant for the capital region.

Gann originally supported his government's decision to fund one-third of the proposed facility, based on federal regulations that came into effect this year and a provincial order in 2006 requiring secondary treatment in the region.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised the funding in 2006 and the Conservative government delivered on that promise this year, pledging a $253.4-million contribution toward the McLoughlin Point wastewater treatment plant and marine outfall in Esquimalt by 2018.

However, Gann flip-flopped on the issue Thursday, saying he has listened to people on the doorstep, in coffee shops and in senior homes - and the resounding message is clear: "Not this plan, not now."

"That is a tough thing for me to do," Gann conceded in an interview. "I know our prime minister and our federal government and the ministries of environment at both the federal and provincial levels do not want Canada's reputation to be polluting and there's rules. But I think in this circumstance, [the plan] requires a sober second thought."

Gann said an MP's job is to bring the voices of constituents to Ottawa, not vice versa. He said he has talked to marine scientists and been told that the effect of screened sewage being shot out into the sea under the current system is negligible. The bigger problem arises from chemicals and pharmaceuticals entering the ocean through the region's aging storm sewers.

"There isn't a marine scientist that believes there is scientific evidence that the current proposed plan is right," Gann said. "They are saying categorically: 'Mother Nature is taking care of it [but] Mother Nature will not take care of it forever.' "

The argument is that the region's unique ocean currents adequately disperse the 129 million litres of screened sewage discharged each day from the region.

Gann is now among three mainstream party candidates opposed to the plan. That leaves only NDP candidate Murray Rankin, an environmental lawyer, in support of it.

Rankin admits the current proposal for the treatment plant is not perfect.

But he said it's what we have, it has two-thirds funding from the provincial and federal governments, and the region can't be exempted from the federal regulations. Rankin said the issue has been studied for decades and it's time to "just get on with it."

Green party candidate Donald Galloway takes the opposite tack, saying the region shouldn't rush into such an expensive plan and should rather err on the side of caution. He's not in favour of the treatment plan in its current form, and said an environmental assessment is first needed.

Liberal party candidate Paul Summerville breathed new life into the anti-secondary sewage treatment forces when he launched his campaign with a no-holds barred rejection of the proposal, calling it a "billion-dollar boondoggle."

Summerville maintains the Capital Regional District could get an exemption from current federal wastewater regulations simply by having the region designated as a lower wastewater risk.

Art Lowe, the Libertarian Party candidate, said he's been opposed to the sewage plan since Day One.

"It is sad that our political class flips and flops depending on which way the political wind blows, rather than taking a principled stand on issues and sticking to it," Lowe said.

The byelection to replace Victoria NDP MP Denise Savoie, who stepped down in August for health reasons, is set for Nov. 26.

There are six people in the race, including Philip G. Ney of the Christian Heritage Party of Canada.



View Royal Town Hall Nov 6, 2012 with David Anderson:!

- David Anderson addresses Mayor Graham Hill and Council about the financial implications of the CRD's Core Area Wastewater Treatment Project. Mayor Hill gives a detailed history of how to proposed plan came to be.

ARESST AGM Nov 7, 2012 with Ted Dew-Jones:

- The Association for Responsible and Environmentally Sustainable Sewage Treatment held its Annual General Meeting at Windsor Pavilion on Nov 7, 2012. Guest Speaker Ted Dew-Jones who wrote "Victoria's Sewage Circus" talks about the flawed SETAC report to a packed room



C Mclean
November 15, 2012 

VICTORIA – It’s a beautiful spot where the sea stretches as far as you can see. But a kilometre off Clover Point, 60m beneath the water, is our sewage. First it’s screened. Anything larger than 6mm won’t make it through. The rest is bound for the Juan de Fuca Strait.

The CRD estimates 24,000L of sewage is pumped out to sea every day from the Macaulay and Clover Point outfalls. Over the past three decades, that adds up to 260 million litres. That’s enough to fill 105 Olympic sized swimming pools.

It was a bit more than three decades ago Bill McElroy was a Victoria Alderman and CRD Director. He couldn’t believe the city’s sewage was being flushed out to sea. “The CRD at the time hired a biologist up at the university to do a real study, they sent divers down, took samples…the bottom line was not only was it not harming the marine environment, it was enhancing it, bringing nutrients back to the ocean.”

Sound familiar? Decades later some scientists are saying the same thing. Credible-sounding critics are lining up to assure us the tides are treating our sewage naturally and safely. “We worked it out. It’s literally a drop in a 5 gallon bucket is the proportion of the flow of what’s going out from Victoria to what’s flowing in the strait” says former CRD Medical Health OfficeDr. Shaun Peck.

But many people including the federal government believe the core municipalities cannot keep piping waste into the ocean. “The idea that we can dump toxins into the environment and they just go away is simply not true, and fundamentally, the idea we can create waste and it’s up to our environment to deal with it is irresponsible” says Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director of Georgia Strait Alliance.

Wilhelmson says studies show only pollution-tolerant plants and animals have survived near the outfalls. CRD monitoring confirms some damage to marine life on the seafloor within 300 metres of the pipes.

No one can argue the smelly optics of flushing our floaties just off-shore. In the year 2012 it just doesn’t sound right. But does the science back that up? Maybe we’ll know in another 30 years.


NOVEMBER 18, 2012

It seems impossible for local governments to deal with problems of their making without the assistance of regional, provincial and federal funding.

Canada's mayors last week went cap in hand to the federal government for committed long-term funding to replace what is called "aging infrastructure," which means things like water systems and sewers, bridges and roads that city fathers have let fall to pieces.

Here in Greater Victoria, though, politicians are anxious to secure a share of senior government funding for a project - secondary treatment for sewage - that was not a priority until the order came from those same senior governments to get on with it.

So far, only a few municipal politicians - Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen and Saanich Coun. Vic Derman - have had the courage to dig in their heels. Most others, being polite, law-abiding Islanders, seem prepared to be stampeded to an arbitrary deadline set without research or explanation.

We are people dwelling on a pristine coast washed by healing waters. It galls that we're being treated like ignorant swamp-dwellers by a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats on the banks of the sluggish, black fly-infested, timber-choked Ottawa River, into which the capital's sewage discharges, raw, every time it rains.

It's a wonder people around here aren't marching and banging chamberpots in protest. But that may be because those most offended are past their prime.

Some of these old dears are so opposed to treating their sewage better that they sound as if they believe dumping it into the Strait is beneficial to its health, that we deserve carbon credits for helping to keep the carbon-gulping plankton in bloom.

What marine biologists and health authorities have told us repeatedly is that dumping what we do the way we do it now causes no significant harm to the ocean and what lives there.

University of Victoria scientists have said that there's probably no net benefit in separating the sludge to be massaged and concentrated, carting it around town and putting it somewhere to belch and fester before releasing the liquid, which still will contain a lot of nasty stuff anyway.

Who can dispute this? Not, certainly, those very important people in Ottawa who have looked at a map and noticed the "waterway" which is our part of the sea and decided that it's no different than a stagnant prairie pond.

"There are much lower treatment levels for releases to coastal waters than inland fresh waters," says an Environment Canada website in great alarm. B.C., it reports in a curious turn of phrase, "has approximately 36 per cent of its served population receiving less than secondary treatment."

In the three Prairie provinces, it notes, 89 to 99 per cent of discharges receive secondary treatment. Why am I not surprised?

It's the way of cities and towns to grow, though. When highrises line the waterfront from Ogden Point to Willows Beach, a massive traffic interchange serves the Victoria-Oak Bay border and a giant ferris wheel looms over what used to be Beacon Hill Park, can our natural toilet sustain us?

I've seen suggestions by those opposing secondary treatment now that we won't have to change our ways for 40 years.

Clearly, it's absurd that we are given the highest rating as a pollution risk given our geographical place. It's absurd that we are given 20 years to have secondary treatment up and running without adequate time to investigate alternative technologies and processes that might accomplish more and cost less.

All cities, not just Greater Victoria, are falling apart now from the neglect and misplaced priorities of past mayors and councils assuaging the greed of developers.

Roads and buildings are provided to increase density, which causes gridlock and increased demand for social services that can't be met.

City politicians today prefer building convention centres to fixing drains. And when the crunch comes, they look to provincial and federal taxpayers, including those in the hinterlands and heartlands, to rescue them.

Most of us have known for a long time that we can't keep fouling our waters. How many of us were confident that, when the time came, Prairie folk would pay to keep our ocean clean?



ARESST: Anti-grey-hair sewage plant advocate  "Laura Feyrer"  listed as working for Ministry of Environment of BC, Compliance Policy and Planning Branch.


Laura Feyrer
Times Colonist
November 17, 2012

While opponents to the sewage-treatment plant garner publicity and try to stall a process that is almost set to go, they are making an already-difficult situation worse for everyone.

Questioning the science is a red herring, much like the climate change debate. Treatment is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. New federal legislation confirms that. Motions to delay or postpone the sewage treatment project waste time now and, if successful, years of efforts spent negotiating to reach the current agreement among the three levels of government involved.

These dollars won't necessarily be reallocated to something "more useful" for residents of Vancouver Island. Building the current sewage treatment plan with today's dollars might cost money, but it is only going to cost more in the future.

Who are these opponents? I see a lot of grey hair in the crowd of protesters. Funny thing, as I'm betting (like they are) that these folks aren't going to be around to foot the bill if the project gets delayed.

This dispute reeks of self-interest, rather than science.

Laura Feyrer


ARESST: Re letter below:  Stated cost of sewage plant during 1992 referendum was $400 million, but while the current projected total cost for the  sewage treatment plant system is $790 million, only $210 million of that is for the sewage treatment plant, and the $580 balance is mostly for attempting to reduce the negative environmental impacts of the plant, "resource recovery" and planning. 


Alex Currie
Times Colonist
November 16, 2012

Re: "Sewage treatment foes out in force," Nov. 15.

Greater Victoria has put off the issue of sewage treatment for so many years, the cost of doing it now is likely 10 times higher than 20 years ago.

The city continues to grow, as does the raw-sewage load. The idea of putting it off until 2040 for compliance is only going to result in even higher cost and the inevitable closure of inshore recreational fishing, closure of beaches and odours that will not be abated.

Dilution is not an acceptable form of environmental management. In addition, the assumption is all waste is raw human waste when, in fact, there are industrial and commercial chemicals in all wastes from the sanitary-sewer systems.

So suck it up, Victoria, the free ride at the expense of the environment is over.

Get on with it and show some responsibility to future generations.

Alex Currie


Hew Bowman
Times Colonist
November 18, 2012

Re: "Sewage treatment foes out in force," Nov. 15.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, I spent a lot of time in Vancouver working with a small engineering firm. On many occasions, I would take the Alex Fraser Bridge, which passes over Annacis Island and the sewage-treatment plant that was located there. On most days, there was quite a stink.

Wouldn't that be something if our new local sewage plant gave our Inner Harbour, parliament buildings and downtown area an Annacis Island aroma?

I suppose we shouldn't forget about all our new visitors who will be tying up at the new yacht marina enjoying a nice breeze coming up through the harbour.

I believe the sewage plant on Annacis Island was promoted as an odour-free installation. Something to think about.

Hew Bowman


Jim Marshall
Times Colonist
November 18, 2012

Re: "Sewage treatment foes out in force," Nov. 15.

There are obviously polarized views on the subject. I feel my opinions and views are based more on the science than what I think are opinions based on perception.

I read that "129 million litres of screened sewage are discharged each day into the strait." Sounds like a big number. I have also read that the effluent is 99.9 per cent water, and that there is a negligible impact on the environment.

A billion dollars is a lot of money to spend on perception.

Jim Marshall


Steen Petersen
Times Colonist
November 18, 2012

Re: "Sewage treatment foes out in force," Nov. 15.

It is amazing the logic people use to try to save a bit of money and the euphemisms they use to describe dumping raw sewage into the ocean.

The latest is calling it a "marine-based sewage-treatment system."

All the taxpayers who don't want to pay for a proper land-based system are trying to claim the cheaper ocean-dumping system is better for the environment.

My guess is if the ocean-dumping system cost $750 million more than a proper land-based system, you would not be able to find one supporter for polluting the ocean. The support for ocean dumping is not based on science, it is just based on money.

Steen Petersen




Oak Bay News
November 15, 2012 

A resolution calling for a full, comparative environmental impact study, passed at Tuesday night’s Oak Bay municipal council meeting was taken to the Wednesday CRD’s Liquid Waste Management Committee meeting. The resolution calls for the CRD and federal government to fund and perform the study prior to proceeding with the proposed $783-million waste management project planned for Greater Victoria.

Jack Hull, manager of integrated water services for the CRD, who was present at the meeting, acknowledged that no such study has been done to date. He maintained that the waste management plan was developed because “the province directed that it be done,” and that regardless of the outcome of any environmental study, the plan would proceed.

The directives to proceed with sewage treatment were deliberately written to disallow exemptions, Hull said. “(The provincial government) envisioned a long line of applications for waiving the directives.”

Past efforts to postpone the proposed treatment plan have given rise to concerns that any stalling tactics on the part of municipalities could potentially cause the provincial and federal governments to withdraw their portion of the funding for the project, an amount just over $500-million.

The CRD position did not sit well with council. Mayor Nils Jensen, who supported the motion, maintained that “this should not be a one size fits all solution.” He went on to say that all Oak Bay wants is an “informed, open and transparent debate,” that will allow for the best possible solution to be reached.

Councillor Michelle Kirby was equally passionate about her concerns with the proposed plan. “Just because the province has said to do it, we shouldn’t rush ahead if we don’t know if it will do more harm than good,” she said.

All of the other councillors spoke in support of the resolution before passing it unanimously.

The resolution will also be forwarded to the provincial and federal governments, as well as to the six other Greater Victoria municipalities impacted by the proposed sewage treatment plan.



Daniel Palmer
Victoria News
November 15, 2012

Capital Regional District directors delayed a critical vote on the secondary sewage treatment project Wednesday, after nearly 30 public speakers caused the item to run longer than allocated.

Directors were meant to vote on the creation of an oversight commission for the $783-million project, while Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins and Saanich Coun. Vic Derman put forward motions to pursue a low-risk designation under federal regulations.

The designation would extend the deadline for compliance from 2018 to 2040.

While most of the 28 public speakers were opposed to the project, some argued the current system of pumping screened raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca is nothing more than pollution.

“We now have the  money in place to build the plant and laws to mandate it,” said Christianne Wilhelmson, executive director of the Georgia Strait Alliance.

Public anxiety remains over the roughly $250 to $400 in taxes expected to be levied on Greater Victoria households to fund the project.

The B.C. and federal governments are funding two-thirds of the project, but any cost overruns will fall on CRD taxpayers.

The vote will likely be delayed to Nov. 28, said Denise Blackwell, committee chair.


Bill Cleverley
Times Colonist
November 16, 2012

- Average hike for homeowner: $43

- Commercial-property hit: $1,032

Victoria homeowners will pay more for service at both ends of the pipe next year as city council is hiking both water and sewer utility rates.

The combined increases will total about $43 for the average homeowner and $1,032 for the average commercial property owner.

Councillors Lisa Helps and Shellie Gudgeon were dismayed that the utility rates continue to rise with apparently little the council can do to stop it.

"In the long term, I don't know what the answer is but we can't just keep increasing these rates year over year," Helps said.

"Whatever the levers are, we need to figure a way to try to address this."

Under proposals ratified by the governance and priorities committee Thursday, the sewer utility rate will increase 10 per cent or about $18 for the typical homeowner. The typical commercial user will see an increase of $432 a year.

City staff say the bulk of the increase is for infrastructure replacement, while the balance is for increased operating costs.

The committee also approved an increase in the water rate that will translate into an extra $25 on the average homeowner's water bill and an extra $600 on the average commercial bill.

Gudgeon, a restaurateur, said the cost of water is a huge expense for hotels and restaurants.

"From my understanding, for a locally owned hotel downtown their water bill is over $100,000 a year, so five per cent, seven per cent or eight per cent [increase] is a huge amount of money for an already struggling business," Gudgeon said.

John Sturdy, acting director of public works, said a lot of the capital costs are associated with maintaining and operating infrastructure that is 100 years old.

"A lot of the work that we're doing is just operating and maintaining a very old water system," Sturdy said.

He said that although they have been going up, Victoria's rates are consistent with or at the lower end of rates charged by municipalities across the country and in the region.

"We do have a significant infrastructure deficit with our system and the increases that we've been putting into the actual capital side of the program to increase the work we're trying to do isn't totally adequate to deal with infrastructure deficit," Sturdy said.

A good chunk of the rate increase - $7 on the residential bill - is needed to make up for revenue lost because people are using less water.

Coun. Geoff Young said councillors who sit on the regional water commission can influence that, if they choose.

"The board has made a decision, you have made a decision, that you want to ration water," Young said.

"You are telling people they have to go out and buy expensive timers to turn off their water at six o'clock in the morning on two days a week.

"You've succeeded in restricting water consumption at a time when we've got water coming out of our ears. And you have been driving up the price of water for years."

Mayor Dean Fortin urged water commission members not to "abandon the conservation ethic."

"Just because we have extra water is not a reason to waste it."

The water budget includes increased costs of operation, an increase in capital to address deferred maintenance and an eight per cent increase in the wholesale water rate.



Don Descoteau
Victoria News
November 15, 2012

It’s about 10:30 on a Thursday morning and Carreiro the Studio is still rather quiet, outside of a couple of clients here to get their hair coloured.

The expansive hair salon, tucked like an underground lair beneath a deceivingly small lobby on Broad Street, won’t start going through chemical-based hair products in earnest until at least 11 a.m.

Owner/stylist John Carreiro, who considers himself a green thinker, doesn’t worry these days about colouring products getting rinsed down the drain, or other supplies going into the landfill.

Not since he signed his shop up with Green Circle Salons last month.

The Toronto-based firm, started by organic chemist Shane Price, is gaining a foothold in B.C. with its program of collecting and recycling hair care products and other salon waste.

The company’s once-a-week pickups are working great, Carreiro says.

“The foils used to get rinsed and thrown away,” he says of the rectangular tin foil sheets used in colourings. “Now they get put directly into these bins.”

Within a few steps from each stylist chair are a series of containers. Inside, separated by type of waste, are foils, colour tubes and other detritus leftover from salon appointments. Another bin holds swept-up hair, which is used in booms for oil spills, as well as other products.

Carreiro says his staff had been on him for years to do something about the amount of chemical waste the salon created. He was on board, but until Green Circle came along, the point was moot.

“We really wanted to take that ecological stance, but nobody would pick up our stuff,” Carreiro says.

Given the relatively low market price paid for such waste, it would take many salons’ material to make it worthwhile for a diversion company to bother.



Globe and Mail
Nov. 18 2012, 10:56 PM EST

The NDP’s Murray Rankin glad-handed his way through a bubble-tea café in Victoria’s Chinatown on Sunday, promising to fight against the Northern Gateway pipeline if he wins the Nov. 26 federal by-election. Veteran NDP campaigner Olivia Chow, the MP for Trinity-Spadina in Toronto, was at his side, smoothly switching to Cantonese when needed to introduce the party’s candidate.

One topic that didn’t come up during this main-streeting event was the region’s plan to add a secondary treatment facility for the more than 100 million litres of sewage pumped into the Strait of Juan de Fuca every day. But his opponents see it as the one subject that could deny the New Democratic Party a by-election victory.

The odds favour Mr. Rankin in this strong NDP riding, but he has been isolated as the candidate in favour of a proposed $780-million sewage treatment plant for the capital region. It’s a project that faces vocal opposition.

“We’re the only [coastal] community north of San Diego that doesn’t have secondary sewage treatment. I think people are beginning to see that putting it off until the year 2040 is simply unacceptable,” Mr. Rankin said in an interview. “We have got to address the issue of dumping sewage into the ocean.”

The NDP candidate can thank the Harper Conservatives and the B.C. Liberal government for this potential wedge issue. Both levels of government are demanding that the Capital Regional District install secondary treatment, rather than pumping screened effluent into the strait.

Critics of the plan, which could add hundreds of dollars each year to homeowners’ tax bills, say science is on their side; that there is no evidence that the natural movement of the currents can’t process the outfall.

Mr. Rankin finds himself siding with the B.C. Ministry of Environment, which has found the seabed near the outfalls exceeds the province’s contaminated-sites standards.

Liberal candidate Paul Summerville has pushed to make this the defining wedge issue in the campaign. It’s cost him the endorsement of Mr. Floatie, Victoria’s best-known figure in the community’s sewage treatment debate. And he couldn’t be happier about that.

“We knew we were on to something when Mr. Floatie endorsed the front-runner,” he said Sunday.

Mr. Floatie was the alter-ego of James Skwarok, an activist who would dress up as a log-shaped piece of feces, with a bow tie, to draw attention to the issue. Mr. Skwarok has not pulled out his costume for the by-election but has offered his support to Mr. Rankin.

Mr. Summerville said the issue has “come to a crescendo in the last couple of days. … It is really connecting with people.” Building the facility will “tax businesses and people out of the city.”

It’s been a tougher topic for Conservative candidate Dale Gann, who began the campaign in favour of the project. But he says the public backlash has persuaded him to go against his own government. “You hear a lot of taxpayers saying, they want to know we are using their tax dollars wisely,” he said. “This is not the right plan or the right time” The Green Party’s Donald Galloway said he is not opposed to sewage treatment – but he is against this project, which has already won matching grants from federal and provincial governments.

“We are strong proponents of secondary treatment,” he said in an interview Sunday. “The question is when, and whether the current proposal is the best proposal.”

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