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Keith Martin: War (and Sewage) weights heavily on resident’s minds (at meeting in Sooke)
By Shannon Moneo for the Sooke News Mirror, March 12, 2003

Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Keith Martin blitzed through the western reaches of his riding. A Saturday community meeting in East Sooke was followed by a Monday visit to Port Renfrew, a dinner engagement the same evening in Sooke, with the busy day brought to a close with one of Martin’s "town hall" meetings in the Sooke Legion.

By far and away, Martin said the item preying on most people’s minds is the potential war in Iraq as evidenced by the number of calls his office is receiving. Following the Sooke Harbour Chamber of Commerce-hosted dinner, half of the queries posed to the physician/politician from the 35-person audience pertained to that possible event.

If an American-led war occurs, Martin said it may be over in two to four weeks, but what happens after could be much more damaging, referring to the "blowback" effect.

"If you do something, it comes back to haunt you," Martin said, mentioning the repercussions America suffered after its meddling in Pinochet’s Chile, Nicaragua and the Middle East.

The post-war, TV-generated sight of suffering Iraqis will serve to galvanize the Arab world, Martin said, and a new reign of terror will erupt.

When the Washington sniper duo were doing their random shootings, Martin asked his audience to stop and think about the cost wreaked by that terrorism. The economy in the Washington, D.C. area was gunned to a standstill. If teams of Arab snipers decided to operate all over the U.S., the effect would be immense.

Sooke by the sea isn’t familiar with such terrors.

Instead, sewers seem to be the delighting (or depending on the perspective, terrorizing) some. "Ed (Mayor Macgregor) believes sewers will start and be completed within two years," Martin said.

But Sooke businessman Jerry Liedtke was looking for more concrete answers and he wondered if there has been some "stumbling."

It’s been more of a setback. At the request of federal secretary of state for Western Economic Diversification Stephen Owen, some "fine-tuning of a few minor details" needs to be completed by the District of Sooke, Martin said.

The District still expects a positive answer within a couple of months from the federal government. The $17.5-million sewer project for Sooke’s core needs municipal, provincial and federal approval before ground can be dug.

Martin said the province is "basically in agreement" with the project.

But the grant request still has to compete with requests from all over Canada for the Canada-B.C. Infrastructure funds. The federal government looks at the merits of each application, Martin said.

Bruce Lemire-Elmore wondered how Sooke’s request would rate amongst the other national demands.

Martin said a very expensive project serving a small population has less chance than an expensive project for a larger population. Sooke’s competitors for the hand-out are unknown.

A sewer system would help attract development, but before the companies move in, Martin said land for commercial/industrial users has to be identified and incentives for new businesses have to be devised.

With the provincial government distancing itself from regulatory responsibilities, Martin said municipalities will be given more powers, perhaps through the currently "stuck" Community Charter.

Local governments could use those powers as a magnet, to draw the businesses they desire, and instead of making commercial interests pay the highest property taxes in the world, innovative partnerships can be forged.

But the Canadian Alliance MP cautioned against attracting polluting, destructive enterprises. Sooke’s superlative ambiance has to be maintained.

He said it always amazes him how places like Sooke, bestowed with a lot of rural flavour, build out rather than up.

"Why not have more homes on a smaller area?" Martin posed.

His closing words were not to spread development indiscriminately over hectares and hectares, destroying pristine land in the process.



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