‘Seismic’ shift in governance for regional wastewater project

CRD agrees to develop new board, meet September deadlines

Nils Jensen

Nils Jensen

An arms-length board is the way forward for wastewater treatment in the region, says the province.

After a lengthy meeting with Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development today (May 9), the Capital regional District board tasked CRD staff with creating legislation for a new wastewater board.

“This is a seismic change in the structure of the project,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. “This is a big move forward.”

It means the end of the east side and west side committees as well as the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee in its current form.

It means “a more focused, leaner governance structure that can make decisions and recommendations quicker and better,” Jensen said.

In April the CRD accepted Fassbender’s offer to help them find a way forward addressing sewage treatment. Fassbender sought the expertise of Partnerships BC and Peter Milburn (former Deputy Minister of Finance, with experience in significant capital infrastructure projects) to assist in conducting due diligence and making recommendations.

Today they shared those recommendations in an eight-page report to the CRD board that “criticized the current structure as undermining the ability to make decision. The concern was there was no accountability or focus of accountability,” Jensen said following the meeting.

“It was a good and productive discussion. … This is perhaps our last chance to get it right,” he said. “It was abundantly clear to me for most of the last year they were prepared to pull the funding. It’s about as strong a wakeup call as we’ve had that a further delay and dithering could result in the loss of $500 million.”

After the two-and-a-half-hour discussion, CRD board chair Barb Desjardins reported the four key recommendations they’ll follow: establish a project board with delegated authority to undertake project management, expenditures and siting; enable that board to hire a director to lead project and build a team; complete a project plan and schedule; confirm siting before going back to the marketplace; and develop a new business case.

“The board’s decision was to approve the recommendations from the minister in principle,” Desjardin said.

Both the provincial and federal funding require a new business case in place by September. They also want a zoned site or sites in place at that time, Jensen said.

“What’s been agreed to today is the formation of an expert panel to provide direction to the project and advice to the board,” Jensen said.

Jensen expects a special board meeting within the next couple weeks will discuss bylaws required to develop the new board and its makeup.

“In the meantime I also expect, based on the acknowledgment of the board today, that the provincial government  …  will provide a list of people that have the expertise and experience to assist on the panel. That (panel) will include members of the current board of the former Seaterra Commission,” he said. “This is an arms-length independent board with two members of the CRD on it to provide insight and linkage to the Capital Regional District.”

The suggestions for those roles were the chief administrative officer and chair of the finance committee.

The CRD must fulfill the legal federal requirement for wastewater treatment by Jan. 1, 2021.