A slim majority of local politicians voted Wednesday to back down in their fight with the B.C. government over control of the sewage treatment megaproject.
The Capital Regional District sewage committee voted eight to seven to agree to provincial demands that it not have approval power over certain documents developed by a new independent commission of experts.
Community Development Minister Bill Bennett had sent a letter to the CRD, demanding that experts be in charge of the project, rather than politicians.
Bennett said that would help ensure lower costs and more confidence in the project from the business community.
Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt argued Bennett wasn’t in a strong position to demand anything because he’s part of a “lame-duck administration” within the B.C. Liberal government, which faces a provincial election on May 14. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for them to strip this body of an important oversight role,” Isitt said.
Saanich Coun. Vic Derman, who also voted against handing control to the experts, said approval power for tendering documents is the “absolute minimum of control” that local politicians should have over the seven-member unelected commission which is expected to take on day-to-day decision-making within months.
“This minister’s term of office … is measured in a couple of months, at most,” Derman said. “He is quite unlikely to be back there.”
A new provincial government could result in a change of policy for the project, he said.
Sewage committee chairwoman Denise Blackwell said she did not think it was appropriate for regional politicians to try to decide the outcome of the provincial election.
Creating the commission of experts is a condition of the B.C. government’s agreement to pay one-third of the $783-million budget for sewage treatment.
The commission is supposed to take over decision-making in the next few months, with the CRD committee retaining oversight of the project’s budget and scope.
The CRD board also voted on the issue Wednesday, with the province’s stance accepted by a vote of 23 to one.
© Copyright 2013