Nathaniel Poole points to where the liveaboard boats are clustered at the far side of Brentwood Bay. Poole says that testing has shown that the bacterial counts in the bay are not due to the liveaboards, but have a land based point of origin. (Tim Collins/News Staff)

A matter of class based resentment, say boat owners

Central Saanich moves to gain License of Occupancy to control live-aboard boats

“Post hoc ergo propter hoc”. It’s a Latin term that refers to a logical fallacy that contends that since one event follows another, it means that the first event was caused by the other.

By that logic, if one gets a flat tire on the same day as they wore their green socks, it must mean that green socks cause flat tires.

The flaws in the logic may be obvious, but according to Nathaniel Poole and other residents of liveaboard boats in Brentwood Bay, it’s precisely the sort of logic that appears to be behind the application by the municipality for a Licence of Occupation (LOO) from the province, part of a Management Plan that would raise the cost for liveaboards in the Bay to a level that might drive them from their location.

The mooring fees in the proposed Brentwood Bay Management Plan would impose at least an additional $1,000 per year for boat residents to use their own mooring buoys and demand that they have a haul-out and inspection done on their boats (about $1,500 according to Poole) and that they obtain boat insurance that Poole said may not be available at a reasonable cost, particularly for wooden sail boats.

“Let’s be honest about this. That’s what they’re after…to make us move.

The property owners on the one side of the bay look out at the liveaboards and they consider us bums, thieves, and all sorts of other nonsense and they want us gone,” said Poole.

“They should just be honest about that and not try to say it’s because we’re fouling the water by pumping out our holding tanks. We’re not, and that approach is just dishonest.”

Dishonest or not, liveaboard boats are being blamed for an increase in bacteria in the waters that has led to warnings about swimming at a popular beach.

Warning signs posted at Brentwood Bay beach in Central Saanich since June warn of high levels of enterococci, a bacteria found in the digestive tracts of humans and animals. The bacterial levels, however, are not necessarily caused by the dumping of holding tanks and can have their origin through land-based sources.

“We’ve been saying that all along,” said Poole.

“We had our own testing done and the only bacterial levels found were adjacent to the municipality’s pumping station. We’ve asked the municipality to do their own testing to confirm this and they’ve refused.”

The contention that the source of harmful bacteria is coming from land based sources was supported by Chris Lowe, the CRD’s Program Manager for Marine Programs.

“We will be working with Central Saanich and Island Health to try to find the source of the contamination but there is no evidence to either support or discount the boats as the source. We just don’t know yet, but I can say that monitoring to date has indicated a land based source of contamination.”

The concern that the municipality has jumped the gun by applying for the Licence of Occupancy is echoed by Councillor Alicia Holman.

At a July 30 council meeting, she attempted to introduce a motion which would direct staff to see how they could increase the frequency of water testing in the Bay, which included correspondence which would add support to the concerns of the liveaboard community. However, she was denied the option of doing so due to a procedural concern from the chair, Mayor Ryan Windsor. During the meeting, Windsor said he was concerned that a letter from the CRD regarding water quality testing was elicited by a member of council, not by the council as a group. The motion to receive the information was defeated by a tie vote, so that information does not appear on the July 30 agenda package. Because of this, she explained, she had no choice but to leave the meeting before her motion came up. The meeting did not reach quorum, forcing the motion and the correspondence to be considered at the next meeting.

“They have jumped the gun on this and are not, I believe, operating from a position of trying to address the real problem,” said Holman.

Windsor denies that Council’s move to charge money from liveaboards in Brentwood Bay is based upon the complaints of wealthy home owners who object to the sight of the boats from their homes.

“None of this is class-based, as far as I’m concerned,” said Windsor.

“It’s overly simplistic to say its class-based. If they [the liveaboards] are out there they live there and should be just as responsible. The reality is that on land and on the water there are costs associated with living.

“Some people think that isn’t fair, but remember that it is public space and they are making use of it.”

The open water of Brentwood Bay is public space under a mixture of federal, provincial, and municipal jurisdictions and the practice of being able to moor a boat in open water has a long, established history.

Windsor acknowledged that there may be other sources of contamination in Brentwood Bay, but continued to return to the liveaboard boats as being part of the problem, a position that he maintains justifies the municipality’s approach.

“We’re not blaming all the environmental problems on the liveaboards. We acknowledge that there may be land based causes but if someone on those boats is contributing to it, then that’s unacceptable,” said Windsor.

A decision on Central Saanich’s application for the Licence of Occupation is now in the hands of the provincial government who is simultaneously considering a similar application from the liveaboard boat owners association, an application that Poole said they were forced to file in an effort to stem the municipality’s move to gain control over their lives.


Boaters in Brentwood Bay say affluent waterfront property owners are trying to remove them. (News Staff file)

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