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Victoria's sewage fiasco and the politics of contamination  

Victoria's sewage fiasco and the politics of contamination By David Broadland, Focus Magazine July 2016.


"After a year-long search by the CRD for an alternative to McLoughlin Point, the elected directors suddenly found themselves trapped between two unpopular ideas: McLoughlin and Rock Bay. They tried to find their way out of that fix by proposing two plants located immediately upstream of each of the existing outfalls. That move, in turn, prompted a “Save Clover Point” neighbourhood revolt and the project was on the edge of either complete collapse or a return to McLoughlin Point. The Province quickly moved in and threatened the elected officials with the loss of the aforementioned $482.5 million in provincial and federal funding unless critical decisions about the project were handed over to an appointed board. The elected directors, faced with being held responsible for losing $482.5 million and knowing that agreement amongst them was unlikely, capitulated. The appointed board will now decide what form of treatment to use and where a plant—or plants—will be located. 

The chair of that board, lawyer Jane Bird, is reputed to be a close personal friend of Gordon Campbell. During the time Campbell has been Canadian High Commissioner to the UK in London, Bird received an appointment with Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Development as an “Attaché.” An Attaché is a person on the staff of an ambassador with a specific area of responsibility. Under Campbell, Bird served as “Project Manager” for the $18 million redecoration of Canada House in London. Incidently, the other main decision-maker involved on that project, besides Campbell, was Noel Best, who is a principal of Stantec’s Vancouver office.

Now Bird is in control of Victoria’s sewage treatment project, a project Campbell ordered and one in which Stantec’s costly involvement has been controversial. The connections between Bird, Stantec and Campbell will do little to assuage the concern in Victoria that taxpayers here are being forced to underwrite debts incurred by Campbell during Vancouver’s Olympic party.

A lot of people think the new board will choose secondary treatment at McLoughlin Point. No matter. At some point, whatever they propose has to come back to the CRD’s elected directors for their approval. With the information that has now emerged about the dubious origins of Penner’s 2006 order, it’s hard to see how those directors would believe they have the moral authority to approve a project without first seeking electors’ consent in a referendum."

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