James Skwarok is flushed with excitement.
After more than a decade of doning the poop-shaped costume which has become known as Mr. Floatie, Skwarok is getting set to retire.
“I’m just grateful to be a part of a large movement of people who have been pushing really hard for treatment. We came from behind but we’ve made a difference,” Skwarok said, adding while he’s become attached to the costume, his wife is excited to see it go as it has lived in the couple’s closet for the past 13 years.
“It’s been a long road and I’m just happy to let go of it … I’ve made my mark on this town. It’s time for me to be relieved of my duties.”
Skwarok was originally part of a group called People Opposed to Outfall Pollution, who were looking to capture the public’s attention about Victoria’s practice of releasing sewage into the strait of Juan de Fuca.
Skwarok had recently seen an episode of South Park, which featured Mr. Hanky, the Christmas poo, when the idea came to him — How do you ignore a dancing, walking, talking piece of poop?
Running with the idea, he had a friend build the 13-pound costume — and Mr. Floatie was born. Since then, the mascot has become a popular advocate on both sides of the border and calling on Victoria to properly treat sewage that’s pumped into the ocean.
The practice sparked outrage in neighbouring communities. For the past decade, residents and advocates mainly from Seattle have threatened to boycott Victoria until the region steps up and begins to treat the sewage.
In 2012, the federal government passed a law requiring cities such as Victoria to provide secondary sewage treatment by 2020. Countless debates and consultations later, shovels now are in the ground to build the region’s $765-million wastewater treatment plant at McLoughlin Point.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who is also the chair of the Core Area Liquid Waste Management committee, said Mr. Floatie helped raised awareness of the issue.
“When we can bring joy and fun to the problems we’re trying to solve, it makes solving them a little bit better,” she said. “I’m confident before December 2020, we will have an operational tertiary treatment plant in the region. There’s no turning back now.”
On Friday, Mr. Floatie, Helps and Tourism Victoria CEO and president Paul Nursey travelled to Seattle for Mr. Floatie’s retirement party hosted by Canadian Consul General James Hill.