EDITORIAL: Arguing about the ‘A’ word

It’s the political equivalent of that bucket of remote controls that clutter up our living rooms.

Amalgamation is a topic that’s always nearby, but only becomes an issue when something goes wrong.

“Honey! Where’s the remote for the DVD player?”

Lately there seems to be a renewed interest in somehow merging at least some of the baker’s dozen of cities and towns that make up Greater Victoria.

What I find interesting is that the squeakiest wheels seem to be in the City of Victoria.

In recent media reports, both Mayor Dean Fortin and police Chief Jamie Graham have come out in favour of merging at least some of the region’s 13 municipalities.

Of course, this sounds like common sense. Whether you live in the Uplands or on the shores of Glen Lake, we all default to being from Victoria, unless talking to someone versed in regional politics.

There are a lot of good cases to be made for amalgamation, as noted by myriad bloggers and Facebook pages as well as official reports from various chambers of commerce. Amalgamation would make the Capital Regional District redundant and cut administrative costs by getting rid of employees (as well as a handful of politicians) who do the same thing for different municipalities. It would also allow police to see the forest for the trees.

It’s often pointed out that criminals don’t stop at borders (though to be fair, unlike Rosco P. Coltrane on the Dukes of Hazzard, it’s quite common for local police to cross into different jurisdictions to pursue their investigations).

In terms of administering so many municipalities, there would be initial savings as duplicate positions are eliminated.

But big bureaucracies, which a new metropolis would need, don’t tend to contract or even stay the same size.

As for reducing the number of politicians to cut costs, we need to be careful about making assumptions. Right now, each of Esquimalt’s six councillors makes $11,043 annually. Compare that to Halifax, which went through an amalgamation in 1996 that produced a city roughly the same size as Greater Victoria. The Nova Scotian capital has 23 councillors, each earning $52,000 per year. In fact, the Halifax experience was that many of the anticipated salary savings never happened, as overall wages ended up rising to match the highest paid employees in the region.

But money issues aside, a more vital reason cited for merging municipalities is that a single entity could better govern the people.

I have my doubts.

Take for example the argument, often heard coming out of Victoria, that city taxpayers are unfairly burdened when it comes to paying for all the progressive things the city is trying to accomplish.

In B.C., we can look at what happened in the Fraser Valley when the former District of Abbotsford, focused around its older downtown, merged with the much larger District of Matsqui. The new City of Abbotsford re-focused its centre on what had been a Matsqui neighbourhood many kilometres away from the old downtown. City hall and the police station relocated to this central location as did many of the newer developments that sprouted up to serve the fast-growing population. The merger made sense to people who lived there, but I’m not sure it was of any benefit to the old downtown or if combining Matsqui’s police force with Abbotsford’s RCMP unit made any impact on crime.

The City of Victoria’s population makes up a little more than 20 per cent of the region and is growing slower than other areas within Greater Victoria. If the province was to force amalgamation, it’s not unreasonable to expect a similar conceding of power to the suburbs where the majority of residents live.

It’s worth noting that Vancouver City Hall, built 75 years ago, was purposefully placed outside of downtown to best serve all the newly expanded city’s citizens.

Amalgamation, like a universal remote, is probably a smart idea. The only trouble is agreeing on what to watch.

Jim Zeeben is the editor of the Saanich News.


Just Posted

Police are looking for witnesses and video footage after a crash on June 18. (Photo courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
West Shore RCMP looking for videos related to Corvette crash

Driver believed to have fled the scene of View Royal crash

The Pat Bay Highway was closed for several hours Monday morning after a drug-impaired driver crashed into two hydro poles. (Black Press Media file photo)
UPDATE: Pat Bay closure caused by drug-impaired driver

Man struck two hydro poles, closing a section of the Pat Bay Monday morning

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for Greater Victoria with unusually high temperatures expected Monday and this coming weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria’s first week of summer will be a scorcher

Special weather statement issued Monday by Environment Canada

Central Saanich has rejected plans for a pilot project that would allow food trucks in Centennial Park. (Black Press Media file photo)
Central Saanich puts brakes on food truck pilot project

Coun. Carl Jensen questions Central Saanich’s consistency

A rendering shows what the Doral Forest Park development would look like from the southwest. (Rendering via D’AMBROSIO Architecture & Urbanism)
Beaver Lake area project passes next hurdle in Saanich

Council approval for 242-unit parks edge development hinges on meeting of conditions

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

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

By the end of life, the average North American has eaten the weight of a family sedan in sugar. (Pixabay.com)
FITNESS: Living the sweet life without too much sugar

Simple choices can have a major impact on your health

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Most Read