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Sewage, pot hot topics for Victoria byelection candidates

Nov 08 2012
Victoria byelection all-candidates meeting at the James Bay New Horizon Auditorium. 

Victoria byelection all-candidates meeting at the James Bay New Horizon Auditorium.

Photograph by: Bruce Stotesbury , Times Colonist

An overflow crowd of voters quizzed the four major candidates vying for the federal seat representing Victoria on Wednesday night.

People filled every chair in the James Bay New Horizons auditorium. Others stood around the room or sat on the floor while those turned away for lack of space huddled around open windows and listened from the lawn.

At the meeting were Donald Galloway of the Green Party, Dale Gann of the Conservatives, Murray Rankin of the NDP and Paul Summerville of the Liberals.

Philip Ney of the Christian Heritage party and Art Lowe of the Libertarian party are also on the ballot but didn't take part in the event.

The byelection, set for Nov. 26, is to replace NDP MP Denise Savoie, who stepped down in August, citing health reasons.

On the topic of sewage, Gann said he supports a treatment plant in Victoria. "I don't think it's acceptable for sewage to be going into the beautiful Strait of Juan de Fuca," he said.

Rankin said he supports sewage treatment, but that he's not buying the specifics of the current plan.

"I think we need to be more cost-effective ... but I do think it's time to get on with this in this community," he said.

Any decisions on sewage-treatment options should be based on science, Galloway said. "We don't know enough about pollution in the Juan de Fuca Strait to justify spending $1 billion."

Summerville opposed enhanced sewage treatment, saying there are many myths about Victoria's system of screening effluent through the outfall.

"Raw sewage is not pumped into our harbour - that's a complete myth," he said. "That's the problem with politics and policy that's based on image and not science."

A question from the audience addressed the related issue of pollution from cruise ships.

Galloway said that in a single day, one cruise ship generates 21,000 gallons of sewage, a tonne of garbage, 170,000 gallons of wasted water, up to 6,400 gallons of oily bilge water and four plastic bottles per passenger.

"We don't have any clear regulation at the moment, but we have plenty of information," he said.

Summerville said cruise companies will do what they can to be profitable. "We have to regulate companies effectively to make them conform to best practices."

If elected, Rankin said, he would work to amend the Canada Shipping Act to prevent cruise ships from polluting B.C. waters.

A day after Washington and Colorado voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, the candidates were asked their views.

The NDP supports the decriminalization of pot, Rankin said.

"It's a tragedy that so many young people have criminal records ... for possessions of small amounts of marijuana."

Summerville said the war on drugs has failed. "You want to legalize marijuana because you want to move the business from the criminals to businesses and government," he said. "You want to regulate marijuana so the nasty pushers don't stick stuff in there that addicts people."

Commercializing marijuana also means "you come into a lot of money," he said.

But Galloway said marijuana is a health issue.

"We definitely don't want to think about making money from drugs and drug use," he said.

"We have to think about creating a healthy environment in this country and that requires regulating marijuana in a way that promotes the health. We want to take care of the children we are bringing up."

Gann asked how many people supported the decriminalization of marijuana. About 90 per cent raised their hands.

"As a father, I don't want to see my son sitting around smoking marijuana," he said. "However, as your representative, I'm supposed to ask you that question and carry that voice to Ottawa."

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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