Delta councillor Jeannie Kanakos is hoping to make the city more supportive and transparent for staff in “questionable situations” with a proposed whistle-blower policy.
“I think it’s just part of moving forward and having a complete transparent environment for staff to work in,” she told the North Delta Reporter over the phone. “It’s a progressive policy intended to provide a safe, transparent workplace for staff, especially if they are facing questionable situations.”
Kanakos brought the idea forward by way of a notice of motion at the end of the Monday, Aug. 27 council meeting. Delta currently does not have a whistle-blower policy, and a similar policy was put forward in the B.C. legislature in April.
The need to bring this notice forward came from the pervasive issues around the Enviro-Smart Organics composting facility in East Ladner, Kanakos said, which has been top of mind for council and many Ladner residents after months of odour problems.
“There are a lot of pieces that don’t add up to me,” Kanakos said about Enviro-Smart, which took up the majority of council’s time during its last two regular meetings. “It doesn’t add up how a mom and pop … composting [and] recycling facility, starting off at just a few thousand tons, ended up as a 150,000 ton operation.
“Then I thought to myself, if this isn’t adding up, how many other situations are there like that?”
Enviro-Smart started operations in 1996 and asked to increase its maximum tonnage to 100,000 tons in 2008. That request was denied. In 2009, following a number of odour complaints, Enviro-Smart stopped accepting food waste, and in 2011 Metro Vancouver allowed Enviro-Smart to increase its tonnage to 50,000. In subsequent years its tonnage increased three-fold and now sits at 150,000 tons.
Kanakos did not elaborate on the potentially questionable situations in the Enviro-Smart case during her interview with the North Delta Reporter. However, Kanakos and Counc. Bruce McDonald, who are both running for council with the Independents Working for You slate under mayoral candidate Jim Cessford, brought up concerns about the way meetings were held during Enviro-Smart’s applications for increased tonnage.
In a meeting in 2013, then-CAO George Harvie, Metro Vancouver staff and an Enviro-Smart representative talked about the need for an air quality permit and a public consultation process in regards to Enviro-Smart’s application to increase its tonnage to 100,000 tons.
According to a letter from Metro Vancouver, provided in the correspondence to council on Aug. 27, “Delta staff strenuously objected to any requirement that Enviro-Smart obtain an air quality permit, and objected to any public consultation regarding Enviro-Smart’s applications to increase allowed tonnage under the solid waste licence.”
Harvie, who is also running for mayor with his Achieving for Delta slate, provided a package of responses to council on Enviro-Smart, some of which details his involvement in meetings about the operation and takes issue with the idea that he “strenuously objected” to the permit or public consultation.
In this response, Harvie also accuses McDonald of electioneering, writing that “it is obvious that Counc. McDonald acted upon launching this allegation to take advantage of the upcoming election which I am candidate for mayor.”
At council McDonald responded to Harvie’s comments, saying he was prepared to repeat any of his own comments and explain all of the background that went into them.
“I’m being accused of political expediency and misrepresenting facts and figures,” McDonald said. “I didn’t start the process because I didn’t ask for the original letter from Metro [Vancouver]. So if that’s political expedience, I guess it is, but no more than this letter. I would say in this suggestion, it’s not the pot calling the kettle black, it’s the pot calling a very white bowl black.”
Despite the political back-and-forth between McDonald and Harvie, Kanakos said her proposed whistle-blower policy isn’t political.
“Enviro-Smart has unfolded separate from the election process, as we can see,” she said. “Revelations around what Metro Vancouver was asking of the City of Delta, and what senior staff were saying, that has its own timeline. It could have happened a year ago, it could have happened at any time.
“I see this as completely separate from the political process,” she continued. “I see this as doing the right thing for Delta.”
Kanakos’ notice of motion will be addressed at Delta’s next council meeting on Sept. 17.