Oak Bay council willing to talk ‘integrated services’

Council less-than-impressed with discussion framework

The province proposes a framework for discussion that less-than-impressed Oak Bay council.

Following up on meetings with area municipal councils in December, Minister Peter Fassbender, of Ministry of Community Sport and Cultural Development, wrote to local governments in the region seeking feedback on a potential framework for a planned Capital Integrated Services and Government Initiative.

“Although opinions varied, I believe a number of common interests were identified which could benefit from further collaborative discussion,” Fassbender’s letter read.

Council considered having the issue discussed during a committee meeting, allowing for public input, but consensus around the table is the majority of the community is not interested in amalgamation. Oak Bay was the lone community, of eight that posed a referendum question during the 2014 municipal election, where voters rejected amalgamation. Residents opposed the notion by 62 per cent, 3,594 to 2,184.

Some on council share a concern talks of integration would indicate otherwise.

“We have a mandate from our electorate to not amalgamate,” said Coun. Eric Zhelka.

Coun. Kevin Murdoch dismissed the purpose outlined in the letter to council:

“The proposed initiative will help facilitate a discussion among local governments in the Capital Region toward identifying any potential opportunities to enhance the efficient delivery of service that citizens need. The initiative will provide the opportunity for individual perspectives to be heard and may lay the groundwork for local governments to pursue options for greater integration of services and governance.”

“It’s not a goal, it’s an aspirational statement,” Murdoch said. “We’re not going to get meaningful discussion out of it.”

Jensen plans to respond with a letter to the province showing interest in participating in discussion and voicing concern over lack of clearly defined goals in the proposed framework.

“We are open to be involved in discussions with our regional partners so that we can build on existing networks and introduce incentives that optimize efficiencies in services and governance,” said Coun. Tara Ney, after the meeting.

“What’s really important is that we balance the creation of efficiencies while respecting regional autonomy.”