Voters will have their say on amalgamation

Saturday's municipal election will see the question of amalgamation put to voters in eight of the 13 Greater Victoria municipalities

This is what a sign could look like at Swartz Bay if it were to note all of Greater Victoria’s 13 municipalities.

This is what a sign could look like at Swartz Bay if it were to note all of Greater Victoria’s 13 municipalities.

Thanks to the efforts of a citizen group, amalgamation is on the ballot in eight of the 13 municipalities in the Capital Region.

“We have no position on amalgamation. We’re just trying to take it to the next level rather than have local innuendo about why it’s such a bad thing,” said John Vickers, spokesperson for the Amalgamation Yes group that sought the non-binding referendum questions. “We’re simply trying to have a formal provincially run study to examine ways as to what level of amalgamation might be best for the region. If we can’t have a study … how can we ever even get to talk about it?”

In Oak Bay, Coun. John Herbert is well-known for saying no one even knows what amalgamation means. Yet all of Oak Bay council reluctantly agreed to join the ranks of seven other municipalities to ask their residents about amalgamation this municipal election. Here the ballots will ask: Are you in favour of The District of Oak Bay being amalgamated into a larger regional municipality?

“Are you OK for the whale to swallow you? That’s going to get a resounding ‘no’,” said Dr. Janni Aragon, assistant teaching professor at the department of political science at the University of Victoria. “The fear is probably a loss in the quality of services and a fear in the loss of autonomy because Oak Bay is a hamlet.”

Incumbent mayoral candidate Nils Jensen sees the question as straight-shooting.

“We wanted to be very direct with our residents, when you look around the other questions in the region they’re very fuzzy,” Jensen said. “We wanted to take it on much more straight forward so people knew what they were getting into.”

Vickers says Amalgamation Yes is less than happy with the Oak Bay wording.

“We’re a little disappointed with the way it was presented. We have some work to do to make sure people know what the real message is and hope we’ll have a positive result,” Vickers said. “Any community that has a question is better than a community that doesn’t. My real beef has to do with to be so against it, without any opportunity for engagement. It gets very frustrating.”

The public must show they want to pursue a study because the province can’t demand amalgamation.

“The best we can do is … send a clear indication that we’d like to have a formal regional study, then have it come back for a binding question,” Vickers said.

Odds are whoever fills the seat the retiring Herbert leaves behind will agree with his perspective as only one councillor candidate and one mayoral candidate have shown interest in researching amalgamation.

David Shebib, a Saanich resident running for the mayor’s seat in all 13 municipalities of the CRD, is a proponent. Beyond that, his ideas include declaring autonomy from government.

“One just has to think whole body theory,” he said. “There is nothing dumber than the 13 divisions. The Highland(s) only has 2,200 people and has its own city hall. This is the waste of affluence and no longer, or never was, necessary.”

In a follow-up phone call to the Oak Bay News he stated: “I am totally opposed to amalgamation. I need the salary and I just can’t afford to drop any of the 13 salaries which I’m hoping to garner from a win in this election.”

Jensen clearly takes the hardest line opposing amalgamation, but supporting integrated services.

“I think that our experience is that larger bureaucracies tend to be more inefficient. We have a very efficient municipality here,” Jensen said. “More importantly it would really affect the character of Oak Bay. Right now our stringent bylaws in terms of street scopes [etc.]  protect the character of Oak Bay. Those bylaws would be standardized across a larger city.”

In other words, fear of loss of autonomy in the small municipality, as Aragon said.

“There are so many elected officials for a small population, but people don’t want to change the look and feel of Victoria,” Aragon said. “I think if it’s done right, there could be some efficiencies and centralization of services… and the people need to have a say. It needs to be democratic.”

Though non-supportive of amalgamation in general, mayoral candidate Cairine Green agrees a study is needed.

“It will be the residents and taxpayers of the region that will make the decision once they’re well informed, and I don’t think they’re well informed right now,” Green said. “It will be the residents across the region who will decide this issue. It won’t be the politicians. … I don’t think amalgamation is a panacea, but I do think it requires study by the province.”

 

cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Shaelyn Sinnott of Oak Bay Volunteer Services delivers groceries for client Irene Kenny. The organization has kept up delivery of food and medication throughout all phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Oak Bay Volunteer Services)
Oak Bay volunteers keep critical services running

Duo drove between Oak Bay and Jubilee three days a week, twice a day during pandemic

Two volunteers work to sieve a sample of sand and ocean water through a filter, capturing any potential microplastics. (Courtesy of Ocean Diagnostics)
Victoria startup making waves in microplastics research

New products from Ocean Diagnostics will make research faster, more affordable

Island Savings kick-starts the Equipped to Heal campaign with $120,000. (Courtesy Victoria Hospitals Foundation)
Latest Victoria Hospitals Foundation campaign targets $1M for mental health

Goal is to outfit new 19-bed unit at Eric Martin Pavilion

Willows Beach in Oak Bay. (Black Press Media file photo)
Seven days of sun set to shine on Greater Victoria

Special weather statement warns of higher than usual temperatures

Chef Trevor Randle leads a June 21 online cooking featuring recipes – beef zesty lettuce wraps, blueberry strudel and blueberry spritzer. (Courtesy We Heart Local BC)
Free online cooking course explores B.C. blueberries and beef

Chef Trevor Randle calls them the province’s most flavourful foods

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Most Read