Oak Bay is the lone one of eight communities where residents opposed a non-binding referendum question on amalgamation on their ballots.
Oak Bay voters rejected amalgamation by a 62 per cent margin, 3,594 to 2,184.
“There was a clear sentiment that people in Oak Bay don’t want to amalgamate so I was confident that would be the outcome. There’s a clear mandate from residents that Oak Bay should not be moving in that direction,” said Mayor Nils Jensen. “There are other ways we can create efficiencies and avoid duplication. We have a small and very efficient staff. We’re very cost conscious.”
The electorate, however, approved a study on amalgamation in seven of eight communities that held a non-binding referendum question, many calling for public consultation and a provincial study on regional governance. North Saanich, Central Saanich, Langford, Esquimalt, Victoria, Sidney and Saanich also had questions.
“When you look at the questions that were asked, who wouldn’t invite the province to pay for a study?” Jensen said, noting Langford had the most similar question and narrowly earned the nod from residents. “I think it’s a clear mandate for council that residents don’t want to move forward with respect to amalgamation.”
The citizens group that led the charge to add the questions to municipal ballots, Amalgamation Yes, says those councils now need to engage the province to develop a public consultation and study process to explore models of governance.
“The electorate has spoken and now is the time for action. Amalgamation Yes is expecting that local officials will move forward with the governance review in the near future and will be asking the province to take a leadership role in facilitating the process,” said John Vickers, spokesperson for AmalgamationYes.
“Unbiased, objective studies conducted by the province will provide the best quality information to residents.”
Vickers said he’s had communications with the ministry but it’s imperative now to keep moving that forward.
“What we’d like to see is a commission with experts and insight into the various issues, to study and come up with two or three different models, which will hopefully lead to a provincially run referendum in 2018 or a binding municipal referendum.”
Oak Bay was the only municipality to reject further examination of amalgamation, with 62 per cent saying no to the question: Are you in favour of the District of Oak Bay being amalgamated into a larger regional municipality?
“The Oak Bay and Langford question didn’t have any consultation, it was ‘Will you marry me before the first date?’” Vickers said.
Hot on the heels of the election, the province announced Monday it would put resources toward studying amalgamation for Greater Victoria.
“In the Capital Region, a number of municipalities asked ballot questions about governance structures at the local level, and results indicate many citizens in the region are open to examining changes to the local government structure and/or service delivery,” said Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Coralee Oakes in a release.
“I remain committed to provide the support and resources required by the newly elected local governments, once they have had an opportunity to discuss and review the results in greater detail.”
– with files from Travis Paterson