Opinion: Smoke, but not much fire

There’s definitely some smoke, but it’s harder to find much in the way of fire.

The never-ending Enviro-Smart saga has become even stranger in recent weeks as Delta and Metro Vancouver have taken turns pointing fingers at one another in an effort to lay blame as to why the issue, and its accompanying stench, has lingered for so long. The most noteworthy aspect of this blame game is a memo a Metro Vancouver staffer penned following a 2013 meeting at which it is alleged that George Harvie, Delta’s CAO at the time and current mayoral candidate, strenuously objected to an air quality permit for the malodourous composter.

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I’ve heard people suggest that Harvie’s actions at that meeting are to blame for the lack of a resolution to the stink more than five years later, but as curious a picture as that memo paints, it’s difficult to draw a direct line between then and now. If the memo is an accurate account, and not surprisingly Harvie doesn’t believe it is, much else has happened since that meeting that doesn’t support such a theory.

For one, there were few odour complaints about the composting operation five or six years ago, and given Metro Vancouver had its resources stretched to the limit with the stink created by Harvest Power in Richmond, the Enviro-Smart situation was pushed to the back burner. When ownership of the composting operation changed and the stench became a front burner issue, Delta repeatedly, and quite publicly, called for Metro to take action to remedy the situation. It should be noted that Harvie was CAO during much of this time.

So the idea that Harvie is somehow responsible for where we find ourselves at today is difficult for me to buy, although it’s hard not to raise your eyebrows at how the memo characterizes his actions at that 2013 meeting. I’ve asked him about it, and while I can’t say I’m convinced by his responses, I also can’t see any other evidence to suggest he stood in the way of a permit being issued. If anything, it’s the opposite.

There’s little doubt some opponents will try to squeeze as much political mileage out of the damning memo as possible, and there’s some to be had for sure, but as smelly as it might be, it’s not the reason the stench hasn’t abated.

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