By Tim Morrison
Together, we share a place where talk of the Capital Regional District often generates discontent, puzzlement, dismay and even anger among our region’s citizenry.
This month, the CRD was forced to reverse yet another bad decision, personifying why we have lost confidence in its leadership. A desperate attempt to undermine Esquimalt’s legally-correct, democratic decision-making went down the toilet where it belongs.
From acting as a “facilitating” chair, who seeks to help the municipalities come to consensus, CRD chair Alastair Bryson, who is also the mayor of Central Saanich, has moved to become an “intervening” chair. He has moved from the politics of persuasion to the politics of power. Honouring process has been subverted by manipulation of process.
Regarding regional sewage, Bryson championed the $18-million “bribe” offer to Esquimalt council if we reverse our decision regarding McLoughlin Point. Our decision is final and was arrived at through due public process. Retroactive disregard is not an option.
As chair, Bryson enjoys special privileges that allow him access to any committee. Until the past two months, he had never attended the CRD’s sewage treatment planning committee.
However, starting in June, he used his prerogative to suddenly show up, introduce his own motions and ram them through. He has been the deciding committee vote at least once, even though his municipality, Central Saanich, isn’t a participant in the proposed regional sewage service.
The tactic of the board chair now inserting himself into standing committee votes, which recommend action for him and his board to take, is inconsistent with past practice. These are signs of desperate leadership in continuous panic mode.
Furthermore, Bryson, determined to resurrect the SeaTerra project at any cost, has acted irresponsibly with respect to taxation. While he introduced the Esquimalt motion, he and his Central Saanich constituents are immune to the fiscal consequences.
When challenged by a Central Saanich resident, who objected to the possibility that he would be subsidizing taxpayers in Esquimalt, Bryson was quick to point out that his own local taxpayers would be unaffected; it is only the taxpayers of the core area municipalities that would have had to produce the money. Of note, Esquimalt taxpayers would receive a payment into one pocket but be billed out of their other pocket in addition to paying for much of our own mitigation and amenities that the CRD previously promised.
To date, the CRD has already spent more than $65 million on the sewage project – and there is nothing to show for it. The CRD had no legal authority to tamper with the duly-made decision of Esquimalt’s duly-elected council, but it was willing to waste more time and money on badgering our community.
Bryson, whose municipality has no financial stake in the sewage project, should stop promoting the SeaTerra sewage scheme. It does not have a location, is based on technologies that do not give us the best environmental and economic results, clearly does not have the support of the citizens of key participating communities, and has already wasted millions of dollars.
It’s time to stop the insanity of “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
Change will only occur when we change who is sitting on the CRD board and their leadership. The opportunity for change will be this fall’s municipal election. Sanity should prevail.
Tim Morrison is a Township of Esquimalt councillor.