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

Just Posted

Tips from BC Ferries for travelling this Canada Day long weekend

Tips from BC Ferries for smooth sailing this Canada Day long weekend

Jordan River is his home and he’s working to save it

Wayne Jackaman’s own mining background put to use to help save Jordan River

Victoria teen killed by falling tree remembered as hero

Tai Caverhill was the first to spot the tree falling towards him and his friends

Langford liquor store targeted by thieves twice in one night

West Shore RCMP seek to identify break and enter suspect

Video shows fireworks shot at swan in Alberta

Alberta Fish and Wildlife is investigating the incident in Grande Prairie

WITH VIDEO: Two endangered marmots released on Vancouver Island

With three new pups born in May, two more Vancouver Island Marmots… Continue reading

Surrey RCMP raises Pride flag amid din of protesters

There were about 30 protesters on either side, and 20 Mounties doing crowd control

Should B.C. get rid of Daylight Saving Time?

The province wants to know, as state governments down south make the move

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Canadians crash out of Women’s World Cup in 0-1 loss to Sweden

Canada missed a chance to tie the game on a penalty shot

Four-year-old boy assaulted at B.C. soccer game

It happened at a weekend tournament in Ashcroft

Two bear cubs saved near Revelstoke after mother hit by car

Conservation officers trapped the cubs and transported them to a wildlife sanctuary

Heroism medal for B.C. woman who tried to save wheelchair-bound man stuck on rail tracks

Julie Callaghan awarded Carnegie Medal from U.S.-based foundation for ‘extraordinary heroism’

Most Read