Editorial: Three years since sewage funding announcement, and little to show for it

In July 2012, federal and provincial governments committed about $500 million towards CRD's sewage treatment project

Three years ago this month, a dozen politicians gathered at the Inn at Laurel Point for a press conference about sewage treatment funding. Reporters from every outlet in town took furious notes as officials proudly committed $500 million from the provincial and federal governments towards the most expensive project in Capital Region history.

Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell, then chair of the CRD’s core area liquid waste management committee, estimated shovels would be in the ground by the “beginning of next year, for sure.”

That year came and went, as did 2014, with little more than an upgraded pumping station and $60 million to show for it, as ill-advised plans to put a wastewater treatment plant and a biosolids facility in Esquimalt imploded.

An educated public raised hell to push the reset button and eventually proved that the democratic process can still putter to life when prodded.

But what has the region actually accomplished since that hot July morning full of gold-star promises?

The CRD is at least attempting to collaboratively restart the sewage locomotive before federal treatment guidelines come down hard in 2020; and local elections have installed new mayors who prize public engagement over cocooned decision-making in the two largest Southern Island municipalities.

As Langford Mayor Stew Young told the News recently, the botched Seaterra program has been “a debacle and waste of taxpayers’ money,” and he noted most of that wasted money won’t be recovered.

That means the final price tag for a regional sewage treatment network is almost certainly going to increase beyond the allotted $788 million, which means the overspend will be siphoned directly from the coffers of municipalities and by proxy, homeowners’ bank accounts.

When the people stop being heard, they get angry. As Saanich Coun. Leif Wergeland noted when Saanich rejected the Watkiss Way site for consideration: “I think it’s important we let our citizens decide.”

Instead, only five people made a decision for the entire region that day. People were denied a chance to view the evidence for themselves.

Politicians like Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and other accessible CRD directors deserve credit for buckling down on the Westside and Eastside sewage committees to openly engage the public on selecting the best sites. The transparent process provides hope that some politicians are shaking off the slumber of the past decade and recognizing that their closed-loop feedback system has backfired catastrophically.

 

Just Posted

Saanich Volunteer Services Society volunteers head out to deliver this week’s meals to local seniors. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
VIDEO: Weekly meal deliveries help brighten the day for Saanich seniors

Seniors are delivered nutritional meals by a group of volunteers every Wednesday

O.K. Industries is building a quarry next to Capital Regional District land, as shown in this map from the rezoning applicaiton. (Photo courtesy District of Highlands)
Millstream Quarry wins again in court against Highlands community’s appeal

Judges rule province not obligated to investigate climate change before issuing permit

GardenWorks nursery in Oak Bay at its home until August. (Black Press Media file photo)
GardenWorks puts down new roots in Oak Bay this summer

Nursery shifts down The Avenue to fill former fitness studio space

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
VIDEO: Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The discovery of a missing woman’s body in Nanaimo earlier this month is now being treated as homicide, say Nanaimo RCMP. (File photo)
Discovery of woman’s body in downtown Nanaimo now being investigated as a homicide

Amy Watts was found dead near Albert Street and Victoria Crescent on June 3

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

Ocean debris is shown on Long Beach in Tofino, B.C. on April, 18, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Doctor David Vallejo and his fiancee Doctor Mavelin Bonilla hold photos of themselves working, as they kiss at their home in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Doctor Vallejo and Doctor Bonilla suspended their wedding in order to tend to COVID-19 patients and in the process Vallejo got sick himself with the disease, ending up in an ICU for several days. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Love, sacrifice and surviving COVID-19: one couple’s story

COVID hits Ecuadorian doctors who delayed wedding to treat sick

The Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society, which has been operating a treatment centre on land leased from the Nanoose First Nation for 35 years (pictured), has begun a fundraising campaign to open a new centre near Duncan. (Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society photo)
New residential school healing centre to be built near Duncan

$5-million Indigenous treatment centre will help survivors of residential schools heal

Two Lotto Max tickets sold on Vancouver Island were winners, though nobody won the $70-million jackpot in Tuesday’s draw. (BCLC image)
Vancouver Island lottery players win $1 million and $500,000 in Lotto Max draw

$1 million ticket sold in Campbell River, $500,000 ticket sold in Nanaimo

St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake First Nation to search residential school site for unmarked graves

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

Most Read