Capital Regional District directors threw a $450,000-a-year lifeline to recycling depots on the Gulf Islands and in the Juan de Fuca electoral area Thursday by agreeing to make up a funding shortfall from Multi-Material B.C.
The new recycling program, administered by stewardship group MMBC, came as part of a Ministry of Environment policy change intended to shift financial responsibility for recycling packaging and printed paper from local governments to the industries that produce those materials.
The CRD entered into a contract with MMBC to collect blue box materials, but MMBC’s incentive for depot collection of the materials covers only 12 per cent of the cost — leaving a combined $450,000 shortfall a year for depots operated on Saltspring Island, the Southern Gulf Islands, and in the Juan de Fuca electoral area.
CRD directors this week agreed to cover the shortfall until 2019, when the curbside collection contract expires.
“There was a real possibility [rural depots] would have had to shut down,” David Howe, director for the Southern Gulf Island electoral area, said after the vote.
“I imagine there’s an awful lot of relief today.”
MMBC won’t renegotiate its funding formula until 2017, CRD director Judy Brownoff said, so the regional district stepped in to fill the gap. Last year, CRD directors also voted to pay for curbside glass recycling, even though it wasn’t planned as part of the MMBC program.
“MMBC’s contract is not perfect and that’s why we have to continue to negotiate,” Brownoff said.
Saanich South NDP MLA Lana Popham, who has been an outspoken critic of MMBC since its rollout last May, said she’s still concerned about transparency, months after submitting an audit request to the auditor general. As a stewardship organization, MMBC isn’t subject to oversight by regulations like the Financial Administration Act.
“[MMBC] won’t present the numbers they’ve used to analyze what it costs to run the depots,” Popham said. “We’ll probably see this pattern repeat itself around the province, as municipalities and regional districts start to realize there is something wrong with the funding formula.”
Before MMBC’s program, the CRD funded its recycling program through landfill tipping fees. MMBC offered the CRD $5 million to join its program.
Geoff Young cast the only vote against the subsidy, arguing that Victoria taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for recycling in rural areas.
“It’s a very significant expenditure,” he said. “I don’t believe that simply because we’re in the same regional area that taxpayers in Victoria should shoulder that burden.”
He also said the lifeline will only alleviate pressure on MMBC and the province to come up with a more equitable system.