Mayor shouldn’t turn a blind eye to sewage

Saanich mayor unfairly criticized for trying to stimulate discussion on regional sewage treatment

There would appear to be something out of whack when the sharing of information and ideas is considered a breach of protocol. But that is just the situation that Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell found himself in.

Atwell had approached the Fairfield Gonzales Community Association about providing a presentation on deep-shaft sewage treatment technology. It is a topic addressed several times before by Atwell, who rose to political prominence through his role heading up the RITE Plan group that was focused on finding a solution to the Capital Regional District’s sewage woes.

But Atwell’s offer was swept up in the political storm that has been swirling around the issue for more than a decade. Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps called Atwell’s actions disrespectful, saying “It’s beyond ridiculous. It’s completely inappropriate. We’ve all agreed to have this project board come in and do some work. I thought these shenanigans would be finished now. We handed it over and our job is to get out of the way and let this group of experts come up with a recommendation.”

Yes, an independent panel has been appointed by the province to oversee the project to bring secondary sewage treatment to the Capital Region. (The panel was brought in primarily as a result of the constant infighting between Victoria and Esquimalt over the site of a proposed plant, but that’s a topic for another day.) While CRD directors were asked to keep at arm’s length from the decision-making process, that shouldn’t mean they close their eyes and ears to what’s going on around them, and refuse to discuss the matter with constituents.

The current sewage treatment option would see plants constructed at Clover Point in Victoria and McLoughlin or Macaulay points in Esquimalt, to the tune of about $1 billion.

Saanich will be on the hook for a significant share of that billion-dollar price tag, and we would encourage the mayor to keep the public abreast of the situation, no matter how many of his political colleagues get their noses out of joint.