The mayors of Victoria and Esquimalt on Vancouver Island say they are both surprised that Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen is calling for the Capital Regional District to revisit the idea of locating a regional sewage treatment plant in Esquimalt.

In a notice of motion, Jensen has suggested that the CRD-owned properties in Esquimalt at McLoughlin and Macaulay points should be reconsidered — despite the fact that Esquimalt council previously refused to approve the zoning for a plant at McLoughlin Point when it had been chosen by the CRD as the preferred location.

"Plants at these two points have the potential of saving the local taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars, and therefore I think it is incumbent on us politicians to review those sites," Jensen told CBC News.

Since the McLoughlin Point location was rejected in 2014, five other options have since been developed by the CRD through two groups of municipalities on the east side (Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay) and communities on the west side.

Jensen said those options — and the estimated costs that local residents would have to pay — are up to three times more expensive than the previous McLoughlin proposal.

Other mayors surprised

Barb Desjardin, mayor of Esquimalt and the chair of the CRD, said the motion is "not following process that we have all agreed to."

"Communities engaged and brought forward sites that have been vetted through the public in process over the last year, and those sites were willingly brought forward by communities, and in Esquimalt McLoughlin was not included," she said, adding that she worries Jensen's motion will confuse the public.

Desjardin said she will need to discuss and hear more about this proposal at the Jan. 27 committee meeting.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she understands Jensen's reasoning that an Esquimalt plan may be a lower cost, but said it is still "very baffling."

"Everybody around that table, including Mayor Jensen and all of us, we adopted a project charter unanimously, and one of the tenants of the project charter for this project is that sites have to come up through the CRD through municipal council, and obviously McLaughlin Point is not one of them, neither is Macaulay Point."

A smaller site

Jensen defended putting his notice of motion forward.

"That kind of blind adherence to a predetermined process is often what gets politicians in a lot of hot water when it comes to choosing the right projects," he said.

"A politician presented with new facts and new possibilities has to be sufficiently flexible, sufficiently ego-free to say, 'Well, maybe we went down the wrong avenue. Maybe there is a better way.'"

Jensen's notice of motion has suggested a smaller treatment plant at either McLoughlin or Macaulay points because the CRD is exploring creating a separate treatment facility for the municipalities of Langford and Colwood, "which may in turn reduce the size of a single facility required for the remaining five municipalities."


To hear the full interview with Barb Desjardins listen to the audio labelled: Esquimalt mayor "surprised" by motion to revisit sewage treatment plant in Esquimalt

To hear the full interview with Lisa Helps listen to the audio labelled: Victoria mayor says it's "baffling" to see motion to revisit sewage treatment plant in Esquimalt

With files from Gavin Fisher