October 26, 2014


Election 2014: Leonard responds to 'conflict of interest' claims in CRD sewage dealings
Oak Bay mayoral candidates debate sewage, deer issues
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard faces heat from critics on sewage

Sewage plant should be main election issue (Dew-Jones)



Election 2014: Leonard responds to 'conflict of interest' claims in CRD sewage dealings

Daniel Palmer 
Saanich News
Oct 24, 2014

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins is raising concerns about what she claims is a "previously undisclosed conflict of interest" by Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard in relation to the region's sewage treatment project.

“It has come to my attention that at the Saanich all-candidates meeting held last night at the Prospect Lake [and District] Hall, Mayor Frank Leonard declared a previously undisclosed conflict of interest with regards to his participation in the sewage treatment discussions and planning process undertaken by the CRD Sewage Treatment Committee," Desjardins said in a statement.

Desjardins was referring to comments made by Leonard when asked why he doesn't regularly sit on the CRD's core area wastewater management committee.

"I don't go on the sewage committee because I never want to be in a conflict of interest," Leonardtold the crowd Wednesday night.

The committee and CRD board must approve any budget increases to the sewage treatment project, while an appointed board known as the Seaterra commission awards procurement contracts for the project.

When reached by phone, Leonard said he was referring to his connection to multi-national engineering firm WorleyParsons, which employs his son. WorleyParsons conducted marine monitoring for the CRD and completed an environmental impact study off McLoughlin Point, where construction of a wastewater treatment plant and marine outfalls was scheduled to begin earlier this year before the project was put on hold.

(UPDATE: Minutes from a Sept. 11, 2013 CRD board meeting show Leonard did excuse himself from discussion of the environmental impact study "citing a conflict of interest with this item because his son is a manager for the consultants, WorleyParsons.")

"In an abundance of caution, I chose not to go on the committee to avoid a perception of conflict of interest," Leonard said. "I've restricted myself to CRD board discussions and public policy discussions. Never have I voted on anything to do with which firm getting what."

"Six years ago … I appointed an alternate to the [core area] liquid waste management committee rather than take the seat myself. I was open about it," he said.

Leonard said he avoided taking a seat on the liquid waste committee at that time because of his involvement with the B.C. Municipal Pension Board, which owns shares in another sewage bidding firm, Corix.

"I was concerned about my involvement in BC Public Pensions, who have a significant investment in Corix, and I declared that at CRD as well," Leonard said.

Desjardins said she has no memory of Leonard declaring a conflict of interest at the CRD board table.

"Each time it comes up, it [declaring a conflict of interest] is probably something he should do again and again. Why was he at a core area meeting in November," Desjardins said. "I'm hopeful he'll let us all know … so this can get cleared up."

Atwell released footage Thursday of Leonard attending a Nov. 28, 2013 core area liquid waste management committee meeting. Neither WorleyParsons or Corix were included on the agenda, though the committee did vote on a sub-marine pipeline contract in the amount of $412,940, awarded to a company called Mud Bay Drilling.

"I remember [committee member] Vicki Sanders couldn't get to that meeting so she asked me to fill in. There was nothing on the agenda for me to worry about," Leonard said.

Leonard said it's "unfortunate" Desjardins chose to weigh in on the accusation.

"It's not true. ... I'm being abundantly cautious," Leonard said. "I really believe in integrity. My dad said the only thing I can leave office with is my last name, and that's your reputation."

Look for updates to this story and other issues at saanichnews.com/municipalelection during the all-candidates meeting tonight at Gordon Head United Church (4201 Tyndall Ave.). The meeting begins at 7 p.m.


Oak Bay mayoral candidates debate sewage, deer issues

OCTOBER 23, 2014

The defining issues in the mayoral race in Oak Bay came down to deer management and sewage treatment at a meeting Thursday night.

More than 300 people filled the aisles and doorways of the Oak Bay United Church to hear the two candidates square off in a 75-minute debate moderated by former Oak Bay mayor Christopher Causton.

Aside from the two dominant issues, residents peppered the incumbent mayor, Nils Jensen, and challenger Cairine Green, currently a councillor, with questions about the city’s official community plan, cost containment, residential seniors’ care (with Oak Bay Lodge as the centrepiece), and amalgamation.

Green said she wants to re-evaluate Oak Bay’s participation in the Capital Regional District deer management strategy, using new information and scientific evidence. “If elected mayor, I would push the pause button,” she said.

Oak Bay approved a plan last November to partner with the CRD in trapping and killing 25 deer. There has been no cull so far, in part because several deer traps provided by the provincial government were stolen and burned. New traps are to be available early in the new year.

Jensen said that if re-elected, “I will not push the pause button.” A cull is the only answer, he said.

Jensen pointed to a pet Labrador that required emergency surgery after being attacked by a buck in a Henderson Road backyard on Saturday night.

A child or senior could be next, Jensen said. “We cannot afford to wait until there is a tragedy.”

The region’s proposed sewage-treatment plant also proved contentious.

Jensen said a solution must be found soon — whether that involves a single plant or two (one in the West Shore and one for the three core municipalities of Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria) — before the region loses promised provincial and federal funding of $500 million toward the estimated $750-million price tag.

Green argued that the funding is secure, and said the municipality must take its time to explore new science and sub-regional wastewater treatment systems. As well, tertiary treatment is the only way forward, she said.

Green is campaigning to be a full-time mayor, and said she would hold regular meetings with the public. Jensen, a lawyer who receives $28,000 annually as a part-time mayor, said a full-time position would unnecessarily drive up costs.

As part of the Nov. 15 election, voters will be asked to answer a simple yes or no to a non-binding referendum question about whether Oak Bay should be amalgamated into a larger regional municipality.

Both mayoral candidates say no.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard faces heat from critics on sewage

OCTOBER 25, 2014

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard has been taking some big hits in recent days, and it’s all over the S-word: Sewage.

Specifically, it has to do with his role on the Capital Regional District’s sewage committee — formally known as the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee — whether he has adequately disclosed potential conflicts of interest and served his community.

The criticism from Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins and Saanich mayoral rival Richard Atwell doesn’t approach the animosity Leonard faced years ago by supporting the now-established blue box recycling program and 911, he said.

The difference is that they are focusing on the thing most important to him: His personal integrity. “To have a debate on my personal integrity when, in fact, I’ve gone over and above what’s required by law, so that indeed my integrity isn’t being challenged, it seems like I’m being attacked for the sake of being attacked.”

Desjardins said she will call for clarification of conflict of interest policies at the CRD at her “earliest opportunity” to prevent the kind of mix-up that saw her accusing Leonard of not being sufficiently upfront about his son’s position with a company that may bid on sewage-treatment projects in the capital region.

The issue arose after Leonard told a Prospect Lake all-candidates meeting that he did not attend meetings of the CRD sewage committee in order to avoid a conflict of interest. His son is a Vancouver manager with Worley Parsons, an international engineering firm that employees 35,000 people.

Desjardins, who initially issued a statement characterizing the revelation as a “previously undisclosed conflict of interest,” has since accepted Leonard’s explanation that he told the CRD about his son’s job six years ago.

“Why the mayor of Esquimalt doesn’t recall my declarations I cannot explain,” Leonard told the Times Colonist, “but she certainly could have asked for a reminder — we see each other at meetings every week and have lunch almost once a month.”

The Esquimalt mayor said she regrets not just asking Leonard for an explanation, but said she was facing questions from constituents already mistrustful of the CRD when it comes to sewage.

Leonard is “a man of integrity” Desjardins said. “There is absolutely no question about that.”

But it’s not enough for potential conflicts of interest to be disclosed only once, she said. Many people on the CRD board weren’t members six years ago, and the coming municipal elections may increase that number.

At other regulatory meetings she attends, the request for conflicts is made at every meeting, so all members get the message all the time.

Leonard points out that he wasn’t at the meetings — he said he sent other Saanich councillors in his place to avoid even the appearance of a potential conflict — so there is no way he could have made such an announcement.

He said the decision to send a substitute was made due to the potential conflicts around his son’s job and his own position as a trustee of the Municipal Pension Board, where he is involved in the investment of pension funds. B.C.’s public pensions have a large ownership in Corix — another firm that might bid for some of the sewage projects.

But not being at the meetings is the basis for Atwell’s criticism of Leonard.

In a statement released Saturday, Atwell charged the mayor with “failing Saanich residents” after missing 102 sewage committee meetings, then voting on the recommendations of the committee in his capacity as a CRD board member a few hours later. (The sewage committee has 16 members, all of whom also sit on the 24-member CRD board.)

In doing so, Leonard missed “all of the important morning discussion and debate and all of the public commentary and public concern, and voted at the afternoon CRD board meeting in the absence of this information,” Atwell said, adding this contradicts Leonard’s reasoning for skipping meetings to avoid “any perception of conflict.”

Normal practice for CRD directors is to declare any conflict of interest ahead of any vote that may benefit a director directly or indirectly and to recuse themselves for the duration of only that item on the agenda, he said.

Atwell pointed out that procurement for the sewage project has been done by the arm’s-length Seaterra Commission since March 2013, thus insulating CRD directors from conflict of interest. Since then, he said, Leonard has missed 22 out of 23 sewage committee meetings, yet voted as a CRD director on the items discussed at the sewage committee.

Leonard, who sits on a number of CRD committees, said he is briefed by the five Saanich councillors who are on the sewage committee before voting. “I have very much contributed at the CRD. I think my colleagues respect my contribution there.”

He said Atwell, a sewage-treatment activist, has frequently criticized him for supporting a regional plan for secondary treatment.

“It’s fair game to criticize me for voting for the plan — I did — but … it isn’t fair to say that I haven’t represented the people of Saanich,” Leonard said. “I’ve simply just avoided anything to do with where the purchasing might be discussed.”

At the CRD board, Leonard has excused himself from two votes in which his son’s firm was awarded two small contracts — even though his son works in Vancouver and “has no involvement now or potentially with CRD projects.”

“I decided that the safest way to never be accused of even having an appearance of a conflict was by not serving on the committee and asking my alternate to serve,” Leonard said.

Desjardins, who sits on the sewage committee, declined to comment on Atwell’s allegations. “Whatever happens in Saanich, happens in Saanich.”




Sewage plant should be main election issue (Dew-Jones)

OCTOBER 24, 2014

Overwhelmingly, the issue that should be dominating the local elections is the proposal to spend $800 million or more to build a land-based sewage-treatment plant. To do so would be to perpetrate a terrible wrong, for it uses an act intended to protect the environment to damage it and would be irreversible. It makes the money we propose to spend to stop refugees starving look pitiable.

The proposal is not supported by any of the medical health officers, biologists or oceanographers who have been monitoring the outfalls. At 88, I have been fighting this for half my life and it sickens me that no political pamphlet even mentions it.

J.E. (Ted) Dew-Jones, P.Eng.