We the People

Mar 2010

On the Soapbox

By Doreen Marion Gee

Believe it or not, democracy is alive and well in Victoria. We are seeing an unprecedented uprising of people against destructive local decision making. Just look at the victories won by the "little guy" in the past year alone with Cridge Park, the Blue Bridge and those spectacular west coast beaches and lands. More and more, people in power are listening to and responding to the concerns of local citizens. There is considerable opposition to the proposed new mega-yacht marina for Victoria Harbour. The public interest should drive the outcome of the developer's application to transform our harbour. Many would argue that it is the people who live here who know what is best for their city, not a developer.

The paper trail of local opposition to this marina would probably stretch across Victoria Harbour and back. "Opposition is loud and clear" writes Denise Savoie in her October 2009 letter to John Baird, the Federal Minister responsible for the Ottawa decision on the marina. She talks about a mountain of opposition to Evans' dream: "In all my years in politics, as a city councillor, a board member for the Capital Regional District and as a federal Member of Parliament, I cannot remember any issue that has generated an equivalent response." She concludes, "I remain profoundly concerned at the failure of this process to address the fact that the people of Victoria do not want this marina to be built in this city's world-renowned harbour."  Speaking on behalf of the Victoria Harbour Defense Alliance in a letter to Pat Bell of February 10, 2010, Stuart Soward concludes, "There remains a massive outpouring of public objection to the proposed marina." Considering an uprising of protest at public meetings, countless letters of protest from organizations representing thousands of people, seven thousand petition signatures of opposition, Soward believes, "There are more than sufficient legitimate grounds to conclude that the application submitted by the Victoria International Marina should not be approved on the grounds that such approval is clearly not for the benefit of the public." As the former Chair of the Land Use Committee for the Vic West Community Association, Diane Carr states emphatically, "Since 2005 we have joined others in active opposition to the proposed development on the province's waterlot."  The list goes on.

In recent months, there have been new plot twists in this marina saga. Media reports cite political insider influence in this project, arranged meetings between the marina developer and cabinet ministers before these officials even determined whether or not the marina is in the public interest, and the developer's use of a lobbyist to influence federal decision-makers. A study by the Harbour Defense Alliance disputes the developer's claims of economic benefits. Recently, a legal opinion asserts the riparian rights of the owners of two of the condominiums along the waterfront, challenging the developer's ownership of that land above his tiny water lots.

All this fervent activity begs the question - Why is this issue dragging on for so long?

The point is we need a decision on this marina proposal. Out of respect for both the public's legitimate concerns and the developer's time and money, let's end the suspense. But the final vote on Evans' application must fully consider the massive public opposition to this project. If it had not been for the loud voices of gutsy community groups over in Vic West, Evans' vinyl vision would have slid through unchallenged. Those voices are still important now. It is called democracy.