Capital Region District politicians reject call to delay Greater Victoria’s sewage treatment project

Regional politicians have rejected an independent review of Greater Victoria’s sewage treatment megaproject, with a majority expressing confidence they are proceeding with the right plan.

The Capital Regional District board resoundingly quashed a motion by Saanich Coun. Vic Derman to independently review the project, issue a new call for innovative ideas and seek a delay from the provincial and federal governments.

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Ten directors rejected Derman’s proposal, while four — Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, View Royal Mayor Graham Hill, Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton and Derman himself — voted for the review.

Using the CRD’s weighted vote system, which assigns points by population, the proposal failed 41 to 14.

Derman said he was disappointed but “not particularly surprised.”

“There was a lot of misinformation in speeches that were made,” he said.

Only politicians from the seven communities paying into the $783-million sewage treatment plan were allowed to vote, and not the full CRD board.

It’s the latest in a series of failed votes for reviews, delays and reversals in the contentious treatment project. Planning for the project began in 2006, and it is scheduled to be operating in 2018.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard pointed to similar outcomes in the past and said it’s time to stop fighting old decisions.

“It’s obvious here the votes are the same as all the [previous] votes. Let’s move on and bring our passion to the next decision.”

Victoria Coun. Geoff Young blasted Derman, accusing him of yet another political ploy to rally as many critics as possible to derail the plan.

“This motion is a political masterpiece, which is I guess why we’ve seen it every few months for the last few years,” he said.

Young said the idea of a review or delay is “only politically attractive as long as it fails.”

Desjardins said she was insulted by Young’s comments. The CRD has made a series of bad decisions to get to this “crazy place” including tens of millions in unpopular land purchases such as Viewfield Road in Esquimalt.

“We have been so purposeful, we have been so determined, that we have not taken the time to bring the public with us,” said View Royal’s Graham Hill.

The plan calls for sewage to be treated at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt and the resulting sludge piped 18 kilometres to a site at Hartland Landfill in Saanich, where it could be turned into fertilizer or fuel.

The CRD is in the early stages of tendering the project and construction has yet to begin.

The majority of politicians on the CRD board said they are comfortable with the plan. While not perfect, it provides an adequate system that can be improved in the future and has been appropriately studied to date, several said.

Debate on the motion took three hours, and involved a bizarre incident during a public presentation.

A local diver tried to play a video for the board of underwater conditions near a sewage outfall. But unknown opponents secretly altered his file on the CRD computer, so the words “misleading” were superimposed on the video.

CRD chairman Alastair Bryson stopped the presentation and asked the perpetrator to step forward. But no one did.

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