Victoria leans toward curbside waste pickup

Cost savings wins initial support despite outstanding labour concerns

Waste collection is a sensitive subject in Victoria, and as it turns out, so is interpreting the will of the people.

In December, Victoria residents filled out a survey in which they picked their preferred collection option among three choices.

City council made a promise to adopt whichever option proved most popular. The survey results, however, proved open to interpretation.

The cheapest option, offering curbside waste pickup, got the most support at 48 per cent. The other two options both offered backyard pickup, and together gained 48 per cent approval.

“So what did the survey say?” asked Coun. Ben Isitt, at a governance and priorities committee meeting Feb. 2. “We still have seen the preference for backyard service.”

Most on council, however, felt the clearer message was the need for affordability.

Survey respondents rank cost as their primary decision-making factor, followed by environment, followed by location of pickup.

“The message I got is that cost is the main issue,” said Coun. Geoff Young. “We have a duty to make the city as affordable as we can.”

Complicating the issue were accusations by the municipal-workers union.

John Burrows of CUPE Local 50 outlined his objections to the city’s plans to redeploy nine workers.

“The Union has not been given any confirmation that the potential 18,720 hours of lost employment opportunities will be assigned and maintained annually with the Public Works or Parks Departments,” he said.

The concern, however, missed the point for Coun. Shellie Gudgeon.

“What I see from the public is they want to save money,” said Gudgeon. Shuffling employees from one position to another won’t accomplish this, she argued.

To this, Mayor Dean Fortin assured: “there will be less hours on the spare board.”

Council supported a motion, put forward by Coun. Geoff Young, to endorse option C: a biweekly collection of both garbage and kitchen scraps. The $161 service is set to begin in 2013. The motion also asked for more information on the labour concerns before council makes a final decision.