Sewage Treatment Funding

I must admit I was amused by the TC article this morning entitled: Greater Victoria Sewage Fund Millions Could be at Risk. My first reaction was “no shit” because just like your grandpa might get angry at you when he finds out you’ve used the money he gave you to pay back your student loans to live on instead while you figure out what to do with your life (true story), the Feds have every right to hold back from a project that fails to meet their project terms.

Such is life because down here at the municipal level, we can always be overruled. A helpful Wikepedia article on Municipal Governance in Canadareminds us that (see para 1): “Technically the municipal government is not sanctioned in the Constitution but may be established pursuant to provincial/territorial authority.”

We are a product of higher levels of government, and we here in Victoria are just one of many municipalities in this Country. And across the broad landscape of Canada, municipalities share many strengths and weaknesses as everyone attempts to keep up – particularly in our environment of constant downloading from higher levels of government.

But how does this relate back to sewage (wastewater) treatment?

As I understand it, both the provincial and federal governments used to have well resourced and dedicated Ministries and Departments with associated funding programs for supporting municipal governance.These days, not so much as our society continues to fall deeper in the political mentality of “fend for your self” thereby leaving municipalities across Canada with crumbling infrastructure, inadequate tax bases, and multiple social issues. Every now and then certain funding opportunities -for things like sewage treatment – are announced with much fanfare as a way of cushioning the blow.

What irks me even more than this constant downloading mind you, is that many municipalities (**cough cough Victoria) seem to be stuck in the self fulfilling prophecy of “ok, if we’re in it ourselves, we need to come up with our own solutions”. Why does this happen? Why are our municipalities adverse to embracing and implementing effective solutions found elsewhere.

Why is it also, that so many of our residents have either deep distrust and wholehearted blind support for our elected reps. Can’t we place them some where more in the middle of the Incompetent Boob – Omnipotent God continuum? They’re all just people after all, and we should all be able to hope that they’re just trying to do a good job. But then, for them to be good and do a good job, they need to understand their responsibilities and the consequences of their actions.

[insert Mayor Atwell joke here]

Wastewater treatment is a big, technical issue and as we all know, there were, and still are, many competing factions within Victoria and the CRD on the issue. I remember watching Victoria City Council at a special Governance and Priorities meeting last summer that was called to discuss Liquid Waste Treatment Options with some level of disbelief. For about an hour,  everyone went around the table and struggled to the define the task in front of them. The minutes from this meeting are rathe unclear.

Why is waste water treatment so hard to define, and why must everyone have their say? Isn’t it just a scientific process and a policy requirement of higher levels of government. Aren’t there many practical, professional and administrative reasons for why the CRD needs to meet its wastewater treatment obligations? Is it not bizarre and impractical that in our world with so many interesting things going, that we’ve wasted so much time already?

So what should we as residents do going forward?

The TC article reminded us that provincial and federal funding for wastewater treatment in the CRD is tied to the failed Seaterra program. And as you may have heard, after everything came to a head last summer, major waste water treatment project actions have since split into  Westside and Eastside Select Committees that still report to the larger  Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee under the umbrella of the CRD.

We need to pay attention to what these groups do.

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