It seems impossible for local governments to deal with problems of their making without the assistance of regional, provincial and federal funding.
Canada's mayors last week went cap in hand to the federal government for committed long-term funding to replace what is called "aging infrastructure," which means things like water systems and sewers, bridges and roads that city fathers have let fall to pieces.
Here in Greater Victoria, though, politicians are anxious to secure a share of senior government funding for a project - secondary treatment for sewage - that was not a priority until the order came from those same senior governments to get on with it.
So far, only a few municipal politicians - Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen and Saanich Coun. Vic Derman - have had the courage to dig in their heels. Most others, being polite, law-abiding Islanders, seem prepared to be stampeded to an arbitrary deadline set without research or explanation.
We are people dwelling on a pristine coast washed by healing waters. It galls that we're being treated like ignorant swamp-dwellers by a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats on the banks of the sluggish, black fly-infested, timber-choked Ottawa River, into which the capital's sewage discharges, raw, every time it rains.
It's a wonder people around here aren't marching and banging cham-berpots in protest. But that may be because those most offended are past their prime.
Some of these old dears are so opposed to treating their sewage better that they sound as if they believe dumping it into the Strait is beneficial to its health, that we deserve carbon credits for helping to keep the carbon-gulping plankton in bloom.
What marine biologists and health authorities have told us repeatedly is that dumping what we do the way we do it now causes no significant harm to the ocean and what lives there.
University of Victoria scientists have said that there's probably no net benefit in separating the sludge to be massaged and concentrated, carting it around town and putting it somewhere to belch and fester before releasing the liquid, which still will contain a lot of nasty stuff anyway.
Who can dispute this? Not, certainly, those very important people in Ottawa who have looked at a map and noticed the "waterway" which is our part of the sea and decided that it's no different than a stagnant prairie pond.
"There are much lower treatment levels for releases to coastal waters than inland fresh waters," says an Environment Canada website in great alarm. B.C., it reports in a curious turn of phrase, "has approximately 36 per cent of its served population receiving less than secondary treatment."
In the three Prairie provinces, it notes, 89 to 99 per cent of discharges receive secondary treatment. Why am I not surprised?
It's the way of cities and towns to grow, though. When highrises line the waterfront from Ogden Point to Willows Beach, a massive traffic interchange serves the Victoria-Oak Bay border and a giant ferris wheel looms over what used to be Beacon Hill Park, can our natural toilet sustain us?
I've seen suggestions by those opposing secondary treatment now that we won't have to change our ways for 40 years.
Clearly, it's absurd that we are given the highest rating as a pollution risk given our geographical place. It's absurd that we are given 20 years to have secondary treatment up and running without adequate time to investigate alternative technologies and processes that might accomplish more and cost less.
All cities, not just Greater Victoria, are falling apart now from the neglect and misplaced priorities of past mayors and councils assuaging the greed of developers.
Roads and buildings are provided to increase density, which causes gridlock and increased demand for social services that can't be met.
City politicians today prefer building convention centres to fixing drains. And when the crunch comes, they look to provincial and federal taxpayers, including those in the hinterlands and heartlands, to rescue them.
Most of us have known for a long time that we can't keep fouling our waters. How many of us were confident that, when the time came, Prairie folk would pay to keep our ocean clean?
© Copyright 2013