British Columbia

Seattle Times suggests Victoria tourism boycott over sewage

Victoria's mayor says the city needs to do a better job of letting its Washington neighbours know it has a handle on the Capital Regional District's sewage situation.

Mayor Lisa Help promising solution to untreated sewage is in the works

Last week, the Seattle Times published an editorial on Victoria's constipated political process, suggesting its time for a tourism boycott unless the district makes progress getting a treatment system up and running. (CBC)

Victoria's mayor says the city needs to do a better job of letting its Washington neighbours know it has a handle on the Capital Regional District's sewage situation. 

Last week, the Seattle Times published an editorial on Victoria's constipated political process, suggesting it's time for a tourism boycott unless the district makes progress getting a treatment system up and running.

"The failure is an embarrassment for stately Victoria, and it undermines the rigorous work to clean up Puget Sound," the editorial said.

Mayor Lisa Helps says the editorial's timing is ironic, coming days after the district announced what she calls a big step forward — hiring consultants to cost out potential new sites and appointing an independent oversight panel.

"We need to do a better job of briefing the Seattle media," she said. 

She responded to the newspaper with a letter, promising the end is in sight

The Times also mentioned Victoria's self-styled "number two mascot," Mr. Floatie.

"He's become emblematic of the issue, and quite seriously once we have a plan in place the zoning in place the plan approved by the minister I am going to invite Mr. Floatie to a retirement party. We'll get some good local beer and do it up Victoria style," said Helps.

"We really are making key steps forward and we're doing it at a rapid clip."

Sewage not deterring tourists 

It's not the first time the Times has taken Victoria to task. It endorsed a Washington state tourism boycott in 1993.

But Victoria's sewage challenge has not deterred tourists so far this season. After city hotels recorded a record June, with an 83 per cent occupancy rate, July numbers due out in days show that's climbed even higher — up to 89 per cent last month.

"It's a very, very strong season any way you cut it," said Tourism Victoria president Paul Nursey.

He said the U.S. market is a key source of tourism for Victoria and he hopes the sewage treatment situation doesn't flush away all the gains the district has made this season.

"It comes up every couple of years and it's understandable," said Nursey. "We've seen this before, and we may see it again until the sewage treatment plant is actually completed, but it's not something we're too concerned about. What we are really concerned about is sharing the information properly about the progress that we are making."

With files from Chek News

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