Opinion

From time to time when there are important issues in Sooke, we will allow longer “opinion” pieces to run to encourage healthy debate. The opinions expressed are those of the writer not those of this newspaper.

Editor

 

When Mayor Evans, Councillors Beech, Bennett, Dumont and Tait, endorsed the Wastewater Franchise Agreement Bylaw at the May 9 meeting, they violated their oath of office, the Community Charter, the public trust, the democratic process, and the ideals of procedural fairness. It is an oft-repeated theme in Sooke council chambers.

Councillors Berger and Haldane are to be commended for failing to follow the leaderless herd.

One need only consider the term ‘Franchise Agreement’ to understand how serious are the ramifications of the approving votes.

The Community Charter, 22(1), states: A council may by bylaw adopted with the approval of the electors, enter into an agreement that grants an exclusive or limited franchise for the provision of one or more of the following in accordance with the agreement: a)a public transportation system; b) water through a water supply system; c) sewage disposal through an sewage system; d) gas, electrical or other energy supply system.

The key phrase is ‘for the provision.’ Mayor Evans and CAO Parliament assured everyone that the district is not in contravention of the Charter. Mayor Evans assured us with every breath that our solicitor authored the Charter, so he should know. Yes, he should!

Consider if you will, this sentence from the Staff Report of May 9, from Corporate Officer Sprinkling to the CAO: “The effect of Council entering into an agreement… would be to agree that the Contractor is providing, on behalf of the District, sewage collection and disposal through the District owned sewage system under the franchise agreement for a term of 21 years.”

When asked if she believed EPCOR is providing the sewer service, Mayor Evans replied “O & M”  (operating and maintenance).Does that satisfy the Community Charter requirement of ‘provision of service’? Does EPCOR in fact provide sewage disposal through a sewage system? Or does EPCOR simply service the system which is provided by the District of Sooke?

Dr. Robert Bish, Professor Emeritus, University of Victoria, formerly a Professor of Public Administration and Economics, co-authored with Eric Clemens, Local Government in British Columbia, published in 2008, by the UBCM.

On page 87, of this document there is a section on franchising which states: “Franchises are awards of service monopolies.The producing organization finances its production through user charges to customers and there is no direct payment from the local government, which may still regulate rates and other aspects of the activity.” The producing organization here would be EPCOR.

Langford has a legal sewer franchise agreement with Corix/Westshore Water Services in which Corix will design, build and own all new installations, collect user fees and pay franchise fees to Langford for the privilege.  Sooke’s proposed agreement with EPCORdoes not meet the level of a legal franchise agreement.

Our mayor and four councillors, along with select staff seem to view this as the deal of a lifetime. They are selling us an agreement where we pay for design, build, maintenance, operation, management, asset replacement, rehabilitation, capital projects, abnormal circumstances, and to prove our unending generosity grant EPCOR license to use and occupy the system including all personal property and property interest for the purpose of performance of the “Service by the Contractor.”

In a perfect world, EPCOR, as franchisee, would pay franchise fees to the District of Sooke, as Corix does to Langford. However, this is not a franchise agreement, it is simply an extension of the existing Maintenance and Operation contract, which if allowed to proceed will cost us dearly.

Mayor Evans told the May 9 meeting that EPCOR doesn’t want another five-year agreement, verifying a comment made to me by an EPCOR representative in April. Perhaps if she would stop acting as an agent for EPCOR and represent the taxpayers of Sooke, she would remember that a previous attempt to pass a 22-year agreement with EPCOR was turned down by her taxpayers. What part of ‘No’ does she not understand.

Is EPCOR’s position the reason for the hard and fast approach to the public approval process, or are there secrets yet to be uncovered?

Stay tuned.

Gail Hall

Sooke

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Nexii roof panel is lifted during construction of a Starbucks in Abbotsford. Alexzi Building Solutions will be building a manufacturing plant in Langford or North Cowichan to produce the sustainable construction panels. (Photo courtesy of Alexzi Building Solutions)
Langford eyed for facility to make green building alternative to concrete

Langford, North Cowichan possible sites for plant to create sustainable construction panels

Local MP Elizabeth May says the public has a right to know the identity of the company that plans to operate the massive warehouse proposed for Sidney on airport lands but residents who want to stop the project would probably have to go through the courts. (Black Press Media File)
MP Elizabeth May says public has right to know identity of Sidney warehouse operator

Residents wanting to stop the project would probably have to go through the courts, said May

Kenny Podmore, here seen at Sidney’s cenotaph in November, says he feels for the veterans after organizers had to cancel an event acknowledging Victory in Europe (VE) Day for the second time in as many years because of COVID-19. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich event marking 75th anniversary of VE-Day cancelled

Sidney resident first planned event for May 9, 2020 moved to May 8 before being cancelled

Individuals and businesses are encouraged to bring their unwanted electronics to Tillicum Centre May 14 to be shredded, recycled or donated. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria residents can shred, donate electronics safely

Vancouver Island Better Business Bureau hosts event May 14 at Tillicum Centre

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Island Health has confirmed COVID-19 exposures at Ecole des Deux Mondes in Campbell River on May 4 and 5, and at Mill Bay Nature School in Mill Bay on April 28, 29, 30 and May 3. (Metro Creative photo)
Two new COVID-19 school exposures confirmed by Island Health

Health authority contacting anyone exposed at Ecole des Deux Mondes, Mill Bay Nature School

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Police were on the scene of a fatal shooting in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. government to give more than $8 million for programs to curb gang violence

221 not-for-profit projects led by local governments and school districts among others will receive a one-time grant

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Most Read