One short meeting at the recent Union of BC Municipalities reaffirms for Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen that the province isn’t interested in forcing amalgamation in the Victoria region.
It was a “positive meeting on the broad term amalgamation,” Jensen said.
Originally sought over the summer – when many council members are away – by the minister at the time of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Coralee Oakes, the municipality suggested meeting with her at UBCM.
“When there was a change of ministers in the interim we were contacted by Mr. Fassbender’s office and asked to meet with him around the issue colloquially known as amalgamation,” Jensen said.
“It’s quite a bit wider than amalgamation, our discussions.”
Jensen, Coun. Tom Croft and Oak Bay CAO Helen Koning were available for the 30-minute meeting.
“It was an open and frank discussion and certainly what I thought was quite different was the tone being set by Minister Fassbender around the whole question of amalgamation,” Jensen said.
“The position that was very clearly articulated was that this government will follow the law and not change the law that says no municipality will be forced into amalgamation.
“He also said there would not be any studies done with a focus on amalgamation, but his ministry was very much open to facilitating conversations about local governments working together efficiently and effectively.”
They outlined for Fassbender some of the ways Oak Bay already works with other municipalities, both through the Capital Regional District and on a municipality-to-municipality basis.
Examples include the integrated work between local police and Saanich Police and other CRD integrated policing initiatives as well as the four core mayors who meet regularly in an effort to see how fire departments can better work together.
“Bottom line for Oak Bay is we will continue our efforts working with other municipalities to find ways to work more efficiently together,” Jensen said.
“He was impressed with how we were co-operating within the CRD … he expressed support for that approach.
“There’s only one taxpayer and we have an obligation to ensure we provide the services in a most effective and efficient way.”
Jensen says the next step is the province taking part in other conversations municipalities wish to have about efficiency and working together.
“I don’t foresee the province launching into any study of any kind with respect to the CRD,” he said. “I think they see themselves more as a facilitator.”