While many Greater Victoria residents questioned giving control for sewage treatment to the Capital Regional District, it seemed for a while that the CRD was proceeding in a logical, if challenging direction to develop a plan linking the partners in the project.
But over time, as the planning costs mounted and the uncertainty and fragility of locating the main treatment plant in Esquimalt became apparent, that public trust quickly fell apart. To many it seemed more and more that the CRD was flying by the seat of its pants.
It comes as no surprise to us, then, that municipal politicians who sit at the CRD board table, and those who don’t, have already started looking at alternatives, such as doing studies on how their jurisdictions can meet provincial and federal government treatment requirements. Those alternatives also include teaming up with neighbouring municipalities.
Esquimalt Mayor Barbara Desjardins indicated this week that some form of “West side” partnership might be more palatable to her residents than the previous mega-plant idea rejected for McLoughlin Point. Such a plan could include View Royal, Colwood and Langford with Esquimalt, with the flows from that section of the region being treated at one plant or multiple smaller plants, given that Colwood has already started down its own road on treatment.
Is the fact municipalities are scrambling to find alternatives a case that would have been avoided in a more amalgamated region? Perhaps. But having that discussion is rather pointless, since sewage treatment has to get done first.
Rather than laying blame for the regional project falling apart – the lack of a firm commitment for a main site was the largest of various troubling aspects of the project – we prefer to look at the current state of discussions as breathing fresh air into a process that had stagnated.
The very real prospect facing taxpayers, however, is that funding from upper levels of government may disappear before smaller projects are decided upon. While it may be gratifying for residents to have more independence on such matters, that autonomy does not come without a cost.