Esquimalt mayoral candidate John Roe says he swims in the Gorge Waterway most afternoons, having spent the better part of 20 years helping to make sure it’s safe to do so. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

‘Gorge Guy’ hangs his hat on mayoral race in Esquimalt

Longtime environmental conservationist John Roe determined to fix Township’s aging infrastructure

For over 20 years, John Roe has been dedicated to keeping the Gorge a clean and thriving waterway, but finding a lack of support to properly address the contamination issues, the Esquimalt resident has decided to run for mayor of the Township.

“It’s beyond their scope of understanding,” Roe says, pointing to Esquimalt council, led for the past 10 years by Mayor Barb Desjardins, who is running for re-election this fall.

RELATED: ‘Gorge Waterway a jurisdictional whack-a-mole,’ says Gorge Tillicum president

The crux of the problem has always been the aging infrastructure in Esquimalt, Roe explains, noting it was built to support just 3,500 people.

A series of haphazard attempts to patch or piece together new pipes has led to a system now bursting at the seams, he adds. “We leak so badly … It’s appalling and we’ve known since 1998.”

RELATED: Esquimalt mayor takes another run at re-election

Roe, who founded the Veins of Life Watershed Society, also worked as a review officer with the federal Ministry of Environment in the early 2000s. He served as president and founding director of the Victoria Wooden Boat Association, was director of environment for the Victoria Esquimalt Harbour Society and a director with the Victoria Green Challenge Society.

Over the years, he has requested engineering reports and found the Township currently has no policies on storm water drainage.

Roe estimates a complete upgrade of the system could run at least $70 million. He proposes putting some of the amenity funds from the McLoughlin Point Wastewater Treatment Plant project toward that cost, pending a minor change to a CRD bylaw.

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“I want to use that $17 million gift on underground infrastructure, not on bouncy castles,” Roe says. “Esquimalt pays millions more per year than most cities to connect its sewage and storm water to the main trunk; that number could be brought way down.”

If handled his way, Roe is confident the amenity funds could be leveraged to bring in millions more in grants. “When you give me a million dollars, I [leverage] it into three, that’s what I do.”

The mayoral candidate estimates another 25,000 people will call Esquimalt home in the next 50 years, more than doubling its current population, just shy of 18,000 people.

“Yes we need more housing, but the housing we need is not being targeted to low-income families here,” he says. And while renters make up the majority in Esquimalt, they don’t always vote, he adds. “They can’t afford these condos.”

As for actions, Roe supports installing more stop lights, lowering speed limits, working to restore the Takata Japanese Garden in Gorge Park and working to bring business back into town, suggesting that zoning be amended to allow for live/work spaces.

“That’s what builds a community,” he says.

@kristyn_anthony

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

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