Amalgamation question may be on Oak Bay ballot

Motion expected during Sept. 29 council meeting

While they still don’t see it as a pressing issue in our community, Oak Bay will reluctantly entertain the idea of asking residents what they think about amalgamation come election time.

Coun. Kevin Murdoch made a notice of motion Monday night to add a non-binding referendum question that would “gauge the temperature of the community” regarding amalgamation.

“If we don’t ask the question, we are opening ourselves up to four years of churning,” he said.

“I’m quite sure amalgamation would not be supported here. I would not support it, but we owe it to democracy to ask,” agreed Coun. Cairine Green.

Previously opposed to the notion, council may have been swayed in part by resident Lesley Ewing who asked them to reconsider posing the question. She cited the recent Angus Reid poll results where 76 per cent of people surveyed in Oak Bay answered in favour of adding an amalgamation question. She also pointed to communities such as Central Saanich and Langford that have approved similar non-binding question.

However, while Langford will seek input on whether to “study” amalgamation, this question would not seek to study, Murdoch said.

“I would really insist on a preamble to the question,” Murdoch said. “The question must reflect Oak Bay. … We have to frame the question as to how we’re asking and why.”

Simply seeking provincial funds or a provincial study would be an easy yes, he added, while considering Oak Bay amalgamated would get a more realistic answer from residents.

While his preference is “to not do it at all,” Coun. John Herbert agreed, “we need to make sure residents understand what (amalgamation) means.”

Herbert asked that staff have a handle on costs associated with adding a question to the ballot by the expected motion date, Sept. 29. Council meetings start at 7:30 p.m. at municipal hall, 2167 Oak Bay Ave.