While other local politicians are busily banging on doors and putting up election signs, Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks is scrapping with bears, not political opponents.
“The biggest issue is the kitchen scraps, for sure. That’s what I’m onto right now and that’s just a monster,” said Hicks, who was the lone local politician on south Vancouver Island to be acclaimed to office.
Food scraps are a very different issue in wild and woolly Juan de Fuca than in most other parts of the capital region. As of January, food scraps will be banned from the Capital Regional District’s Hartland landfill.
While politicians in Victoria or Oak Bay might field complaints from residents about how separating food scraps attracts fruit flies, Hicks’s main concern with separating food scraps from garbage is separating the food scraps from bears.
“How do I collect food scraps in Port Renfrew? We have lots of bears,” Hicks said.
There’s no curbside garbage collection in much of Juan de Fuca. Residents in Port Renfrew, for example, haul their garbage to a local transfer station.
“So, just to even figure out a container [is challenging],” Hicks said.
“We’re looking at commercial fish totes — big square containers — then loading them onto a flat deck and taking them to wherever we can to get rid of kitchen scraps.”
The problem is exacerbated in the summer months, when the area’s population swells with tourists, he said.
“How do you get 1,000 tourists to separate their kitchen scraps?” Hicks asks.
Collection is only one part of the kitchen-scraps headache for Hicks.
Juan de Fuca encompasses about 1,500 square kilometres on the west coast of Vancouver Island, from Otter Point to Port Renfrew, and also includes the geographically separate communities of East Sooke, Malahat and Willis Point.
The CRD is considering options for processing the kitchen scraps at its Hartland landfill.
It’s a plan that won’t be an easy sell to Hicks’s Willis Point constituents, who live near the landfill.
“We’re very concerned about any composting operation up there. If there’s going to be one, it’s going to have to be so high tech so as not to create a smell,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hicks doesn’t know what to make of his acclamation. It’s a far cry from when he was first elected in 2008, squeaking by his opponent by fewer than 150 votes.
“It’s pretty nice. I don’t know how to feel about it,” he said. “I’m sort of humbled.”