Editorial: Ask the taxpayers on Crystal Pool

Consulting the people on big projects can be a messy business, but the City of Victoria should heed a suggestion for a referendum on the new Crystal Pool.

In a letter to Mayor Lisa Helps, Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson warned that avoiding a vote could colour the province’s view of the project. The city hopes the provincial and federal governments will each chip in 40 per cent of the $69.4-million cost, with the city funding the remainder.

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If that funding comes through, the city would not have to hold a borrowing referendum.

But hold on, Robinson wrote. A vote might not be required, but the decision-makers in senior government look much more favourably on projects that can show broad public support through a referendum.

It’s sound reasoning, especially with the checkered record of major projects in Greater Victoria.

Mayor Lisa Helps said there is widespread public support, and she might be right. However, having hard numbers from a referendum would give everyone greater certainty.

If it makes the approval process from other governments smoother, it is definitely worth it. If the province, for instance, decided to reduce its share, the city would have to borrow from itself to make up the difference.

A favourable vote would go a long way to encouraging the province to fund the full 40 per cent.

Even if a referendum has no effect on government contributions, city officials would know whether they really do have backing from taxpayers.

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