Gorge ac­tivist chal­lenges Esquimalt mayor

Times Colonist - - The Capital - JEFF BELL jw­bell@times­colonist.com

The quest for the mayor’s of­fice in Esquimalt is a two-way race, with en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cate John Roe step­ping in to chal­lenge 10-year vet­eran Barb Des­jardins.

Roe, 64, known for his ef­forts to clean up the Gorge Wa­ter­way through the Veins of Life Wa­ter­shed So­ci­ety, has also been in­volved with such groups as the To­gether Against Poverty So­ci­ety and the Vic­to­ria Work­ing Har­bour As­so­ci­a­tion.

“I’ve been 20 years at it and there’s no com­mit­tee I haven’t sat on in the past, and [I’m] still con­tin­u­ing to sit on in the fu­ture.”

Roe said his ma­jor im­pe­tus for get­ting in­volved in the elec­tion is the con­di­tion of Esquimalt’s in­fra­struc­ture, es­pe­cially ag­ing and pollut­ing storm drains that weren’t built to han­dle the cur­rent vol­ume of wa­ter. Cross con­nec­tions can lead to storm wa­ter be­ing con­tam­i­nated with sewage and pollut­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

Roe said that in some older con­fig­u­ra­tions, storm and sewer lines are in the same tun­nel, lead­ing to sewage get­ting into the storm wa­ter and reach­ing the ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment.

Roe and Des­jardins dif­fer about how to spend the $17 mil­lion Esquimalt is re­ceiv­ing for hav­ing the McLough­lin Point re­gional sewage-treat­ment plant lo­cated in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

While coun­cil has de­cided to spend the McLough­lin Point Amenity Re­serve Funds on wa­ter­front parks, re­cre­ation fa­cil­i­ties, pub­lic spa­ces and emer­gency ser­vices, Roe is adamant the money should go to fix­ing up storm drains.

Des­jardins, 62, said coun­cil’s de­ci­sion on where to spend the money was based on “sig­nif­i­cant” pub­lic in­put, but Roe says the spend­ing sug­ges­tions came from the Cap­i­tal Re­gional Dis­trict.

Des­jardins, who spent a term on coun­cil be­fore tak­ing over the top mu­nic­i­pal spot, said good things are hap­pen­ing in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, from the on­go­ing Esquimalt Town Cen­tre de­vel­op­ment to the 12-storey se­niors’ project at the site of the Esquimalt Dock­yard branch of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion.

Over the past four years, coun­cil has ap­proved projects that have in­cluded up to 1,400 new hous­ing units, Des­jardins said. “Go­ing for­ward for the next four years, it’s hugely ex­cit­ing and pos­i­tive.”

Esquimalt is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sig­nif­i­cant growth, Des­jardins said, which brings chal­lenges, in­clud­ing main­tain­ing the small-town spirit of the com­mu­nity.

“We’re like a small town in a big re­gion, and to main­tain that while we em­brace growth is re­ally im­por­tant.”

Roe, who has lived in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity for much of his life, said Esquimalt is where he feels most at home.

“I’ve al­ways been proud of Esquimalt be­cause I’m a roug­hand-tum­ble guy and I’m a work­ing man, as they say.”

Barb Des­jardins

John Roe

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