Amalgamation question must support democracy

Oak Bay council is not being asked to dissolve the municipality in November.

Re: Amalgamation question may be on Oak Bay ballot, (News Sept. 11).

Further to your reporting of this event, I wish to clarify an important point made to council on Sept. 8 concerning our current multi-municipal governance structure with 91 mayors and councillors.

Oak Bay residents are calling for a non-binding referendum question on the November ballot to study this issue, as five other municipalities in the CRD are doing (to date).

Provincially-funded studies would examine the feasibility, costs and benefits of potential future service integration.

Oak Bay council is not being asked to dissolve the municipality in November. Clearly, detailed and unbiased studies are necessary to obtain factual information upon which residents can make informed future choices. Any formal governance changes would require a binding referendum in 2018 or beyond.

Councillor Kevin Murdoch is proposing to frame a question with a preamble before such studies are undertaken. It would be unfortunate if council proposed a specious question that could be construed as subverting the process by adding bias and fear-mongering to the preamble.

We need real opinions from Oak Bay residents as to whether they wish studies to be undertaken. What is lost by asking the people of Oak Bay for their opinion, in a non-binding forum?

Oak Bay council say few people are interested in this. But that conflicts with the number of residents who have signed online and paper petitions, and with the findings of the July Angus Reid Global poll that 76 per cent of Oak Bay residents (89 per cent across all 13 municipalities) support a non-binding referendum to study amalgamation.

It is also true that people are often more comfortable expressing their honest viewpoints in a private setting such a poll, rather than in individual communications with elected officials.

The referendum question proposed by Oak Bay council on Sept.  29 must be conceived and designed in such a way as to support, not thwart, the democratic opportunity for residents to give their opinion in a non-binding manner, and we require a fair-minded approach from the current council.

Lesley Ewing

Oak Bay