Sidney cool to amalgamation

Mayor says there are no plans to poll citizens in November

Sidney’s mayor doesn’t expect his town to consider amalgamating with its Greater Victoria neighbours any time soon.

Amalgamation Yes, of the Capital Region Municipal Amalgamation Society, recently presented their case to council. They are seeking a non-binding municipal amalgamation referendum question during the next local elections in November. The society sees amalgamation as one way to reduce costs to taxpayers in a variety of service areas and are asking that the advantages and disadvantages of the idea be debated publicly.

Mayor Larry Cross says he and his Saanich Peninsula counterparts heard from Amalgamation Yes at last year’s tri-municipal meeting, where each community agreed to hear from the society in turn. Cross said Sidney’s council has not formally discussed amalgamation.

“I have doubts there’s much benefit for Sidney,” he said.

While Amalgamation Yes states the combining of services such as fire, police and more could mean an overall savings for taxpayers, Cross said Sidney is doing a lot of that already, from service-sharing with their neighbours to the RCMP.

“Our policing agreement is shared with the District of North Saanich,” he explained, “and that represents a savings.”

Cross added residents currently save around 30 per cent on their policing costs due to the size of the community served by the RCMP. In an amalgamated municipality — which would have a larger population — Cross said that savings would be lost.

Cross said amalgamation could lead to costs elsewhere. While he agrees there would need to be research done into what amalgamation would actually mean for taxpayers, Cross said it’s unlikely to gain traction in Sidney.

“I just don’t think there’s much of an issue here,” he said.

“I’ve not heard from anyone on (amalgamation) so far.”

As a result, he said council has taken a slow approach to any amalgamation discussions. He said he doesn’t want to dissuade citizens from the issue, but added “people really need to think about it carefully.”

According to amalgamationyes.ca, the City of Victoria has agreed to add the non-binding question on amalgamation in the November, 2014 municipal election.