Oak Bay council weighs in on amalgamation discussions

Oak Bay council faces a quandary as the only municipality officially opposed to amalgamation in the region

Oak Bay council faces a quandary as the only municipality officially opposed to amalgamation in the region.

Coun. Kevin Murdoch crafted a motion that the mayor write to the minister of community, sport and cultural development requesting that Oak Bay be included in meetings, discussions and studies the province may initiate regarding governance review or amalgamation related to core Greater Victoria communities.

“It’s not to support amalgamation or oppose it,” he said.

It sparked debate, but not a decision.

“I don’t have a problem being at the table,” said Coun. Tom Croft, adding the problem is the words “amalgamation” and “core”.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen proposed they wait to see the parameters, such as who would be involved and who would pay for any study.

“It’s premature because we don’t know what this study will be about,” Jensen said. “Until we can see what the parameters are, the terms of reference are, we can’t judge whether we want to be at the table.”

Murdoch countered that the question posed – “Are you in favour of the District of Oak Bay being amalgamated into a larger regional municipality?” – didn’t address studies.

Perception is the worry for Coun. Michelle Kirby, that the decision to seek a place in those conversations thwarts the majority who clearly voted against amalgamation during the election.

“The intent … is that we just don’t want to be excluded from that conversation,” said Coun. Braithwaite.

Oak Bay was the lone community, of eight that posed a question during the election, where residents opposed a non-binding referendum question on their ballots last November. Voters in Oak Bay rejected amalgamation by 62 per cent, 3,594 to 2,184.

All agreed Monday night, it was a resounding result that offered a clear message on the part of voters.

Across Greater Victoria, however, voters approved a study on amalgamation in seven of eight communities with a referendum question. Right after the election, Coralee Oakes, minister of community, sport and cultural development, announced the province would do an amalgamation study.

Murdoch’s May 25 motion is a direct response to media reports of Oakes awaiting municipalities to show interest, specifically Saanich and Langford, who voted in favour of a study. His concern is the community could miss out on the dialogue in the early stages, then be shut out later.

“If we’re not there early at the table we may not be there at all,” he said. “Any change is going to have an effect on us. We’re not that isolated.”

It’s incumbent on the province to invite Oak Bay, Jensen said. “Why should they not take the leadership role?”

 

Murdoch’s motion failed in a tie vote. Council opted instead to table the item until the return of Coun. Tara Ney, who is out of the country and expected back next month.