A showdown between regional politicians and the B.C. government over authority to plan the new sewage treatment project will come to a head at a meeting today.
Capital Regional District politicians have been fighting the government for months over language in a bylaw that would create a new commission of independent experts to manage the project.
Final wording will be put to votes today at the CRD sewage committee and the CRD board.
The two sides disagree over whether local politicians should be able to “review” or “approve” certain tendering documents developed by the commission before they go out to the business community.
The CRD sewage committee has said it needs approval power because local politicians are the ones ultimately accountable to taxpayers if the project’s $783-million budget runs over or problems occur.
But the provincial government, which is forcing the commission model in exchange for paying a third of the project’s budget, has repeatedly insisted that it wants experts to manage the details.
“I know that CRD elected officials are committed to a sound and proven delivery model for the wastewater program in the capital region, as are we, your colleagues in the B.C. cabinet,” wrote Community Development Minister Bill Bennett in December.
The committee will discuss his letter today.
“I hope that your board can agree that delivering large, complex projects in the most cost-effective way depends on all elected officials recognizing the line between setting policy and allowing professionals to use their technical acumen,” Bennett wrote.
“Experience shows that the more that line is blurred, the more potential there is for cost increases, delays and unhappy taxpayers; and the more that line is blurred, the less attractive the project is to bidders who want certainty and timeliness.”
CRD staff warn in a report that “not acceding to the minister’s position may have implications for funding” from the province.
If approved, the seven-person commission of independent experts could take over day-to-day decision-making for the project by March.
Politicians on the CRD sewage committee would still have oversight to set the scope of the project, its budget, design guidelines and principles for evaluating bids.
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