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Sewage cost a concern for premier Christy Clark

Dec 11 2012

Premier Christy Clark says she's worried about the direction of Greater Victoria's $783-million sewage treatment megaproject and the cost to local taxpayers.

"Yes I have had some concerns about it," Clark told CHEK News in an interview Monday.

The B.C. government ordered treatment for the region in 2006, and officially signed on to provide a maximum of $248 million toward the project in July. But that money won't be handed over until the project is complete in 2018.

Clark said the approach was deliberate.

"Because we are going to make sure that, for our part, the taxpayers' money that people give us, that it's going to be spent absolutely as well as it can be.

"Taxpayers deserve that kind of respect in what's been a really tough economy."

It's unclear if Clark's comments signal a shift away from her government's promise.

The B.C. Liberal government is scrambling to put together a balanced budget for February, despite falling provincial revenue. Sewage treatment was a dominant theme in the recent Victoria federal byelection, with three of the four candidates lining up against the plan amid growing criticism that it was too expensive and environmentally unnecessary. The B.C. general election is in five months, on May 14.

The current plan calls for a secondary treatment facility at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt and a biosolids facility at Hartland Landfill in Saanich to handle the sludge left over from treatment. The tax hike per household to pay for the project is estimated at between $232 and $391 a year.

"We are committed to a certain amount of money," said Clark. "No more, because I understand that people are concerned about the expense of this, and the growing cost of it. It needs to be a P3 [public-private partnership]. It needs to be one that is affordable to taxpayers."

The biosolids centre in Saanich is set to be a public-private partnership.

Clark said she insisted on that because the "discipline" of the private sector means a better deal for taxpayers.

The Capital Regional District's sewage committee meets Wednesday to vote on a motion from Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen that would order an independent environmental assessment of the plan to see whether sewage treatment provides an environmental benefit.


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