CRD trashes sewage flyer campaign targeting Esquimalt residents

The Capital Regional District has abandoned a controversial plan to send a flyer directly to Esquimalt residents offering them $19 million in exchange for putting a sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point.

The strategy has been denounced by critics as a “bribe” and an attempt to undercut Esquimalt council’s decision to reject the proposed plant.

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CRD directors approved the mail-out last month, but backed down Wednesday after several municipalities indicated they were unlikely to support it.

The offer required the backing of five of seven municipalities on the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee that includes Esquimalt, Langford, Oak Bay, Saanich, Victoria, View Royal and Colwood.

Langford and Colwood were already on record opposing the idea, while Esquimalt had accused the CRD of using underhanded tactics to subvert its council’s decisions.

In the face of that opposition, CRD chairman Alastair Bryson referred the plan back to the committee, where it was rejected by everyone except committee chairman Geoff Young.

Young said it was premature for Langford and Colwood to dismiss the idea of paying $19 million to cover Esquimalt’s share of the capital costs. He said any replacement site or sites could end up costing far more than the offer to Esquimalt.

Young also said the provincial government’s refusal to overrule Esquimalt council and impose a plant at McLoughlin Point has created a “new world.”

Now, everything has to be done with the agreement of the host municipality, and the CRD will have to offer amenities or a benefit to get things done, he said.

“I think we have to view this flyer in that context,” he said.

“Obviously, my assumption would be that if the citizens of Esquimalt decided that [the offer] was a good idea, they would convey that to their council, who would in turn support it.”

But View Royal Mayor Graham Hill opposed going around Esquimalt council and appealing directly to residents.

“Esquimalt has spoken,” he said. “And for us to intrude by purposely engaging in such a fashion is outrageous.”

Hill said the mail-out would damage future CRD attempts at co-operation.

“We come together to resolve issues of shared interest collaboratively,” he said. “And what are we doing? We are taking our position and inserting ourselves to undermine what has been resolved at their council table. Would any other municipality engage in that and enjoy it?”

A number of committee members noted that one of the goals of the mail-out was to inform Esquimalt voters of the CRD’s offer. They said that already had been accomplished by the resulting controversy.

“I think because it was such a unique offer, it got a tremendous amount of play in the media,” said Saanich Coun. Susan Brice. “And I am satisfied that this offer is known by the greater community and that it would not be necessary to send the document.”

lkines@timescolonist.com

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