Should North Saanich residents give council direction on the issue of amalgamation in the Greater Victoria area?
The answer to that is ambiguous at best after council discussed it and voted only to receive a letter from Amalgamation Yes — effectively shelving it. Some councillors, however, remain open to hearing from residents on the amalgamation question.
The Capital Region Municipal Amalgamation Society (aka Amalgamation Yes) is asking municipalities to consider a non-binding referendum question during the next local election, asking voters if they favour “reducing the number of municipalities in the Capital Region through amalgamation.” Representatives from the society met with local councils at the recent tri-municipal meeting in Central Saanich, asking the same thing.
North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall has stated she has heard no desire for amalgamation from local voters. The issue was headed for the shelf at the Monday, Nov. 18 meeting of council but Councillor Ted Daly began thinking out loud.
“Don’t we owe the residents the chance to say ‘no we don’t want to amalgamate with anyone’?” he said. “This isn’t about being for or against it, I just want to give residents the opportunity for input.”
Daly repeatedly said he’s not in favour of amalgamation, noting he took his lumps over that issue in the 2010 election.
He agrees that even talking about getting a mandate from the electorate on the issue could be seen by opponents of amalgamation as opening a door.
“I’m not necessarily in favour of amalgamation,” he continued. “I just want to see what residents think about the issue and getting a direction from residents on how to proceed.”
Daly suggested using the district’s newsletter and website to solicit opinions. He found some support among the rest of council. Coun. Celia Stock said since it is a current issue in the region, it might be a good idea to talk about it.
“You can’t really move forward with it in your mandate without it coming forward from the residents,” she said, suggesting that council discuss how to get that feedback at its Nov. 28 strategy meeting.
While not coming out for or against amalgamation, councillors Conny McBride, Craig Mearns and Dunstan Browne also indicated it would be good to get direction.
Finall, however, said she has not seen any support for amalgamation in North Saanich from any resident in her 11 years on council.
She said the idea that amalgamation will save money and create efficiencies in local government is a misnomer — pointing to examples in Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
“I’m not hearing North Saanich residents talking about wanting to amalgamate with anyone,” added Coun. Elsie McMurphy. “Just putting a question on the ballot would be quite challenging.”
Council voted 6-1 (Browne opposed) to receive the Amalgamation Yes letter and rejected the idea of directly asking residents about the issue.