Earlier this year representatives of Amalgamation Yes met collectively and separately with North Saanich council to consider a request for the municipality to place a non-binding question on the November municipal election ballot.
Since then we have been informed by the variety of responses from area councils and residents that the question was viewed with some ambiguity about whether a Yes vote meant a desire for studies, or a vote to support amalgamation, or both.
The question, as posed, supported an appeal for the opportunity for a public voice on whether to conduct a study. But it may have implied an acceptance of amalgamating some or all municipalities.
This may have created confusion for councillors and residents.
Depending on how individual councillors interpreted the question, it was either supported or rejected for differing reasons. Furthermore, an appeal for a standard question across the entire Capital Region District suggested instead that shared sub-regional interests across common boundaries was sparking intense interest from residents.
The province is taking a sharply renewed interest in municipal matters and some disturbing reports from the Auditor General for Local Government are pending.
The political landscape is dynamic with emerging and ongoing challenges and a fall election is on the horizon.
It is apparent that without some form of consolidation or restructuring, the only mechanism for municipal cooperation is to give the CRD Board more control for inter-municipal matters, encroaching on municipal jurisdictions.
A majority of residents and some local political leaders are becoming increasingly alarmed that the current structure of the CRD board lacks accountability to individual councils and voters and has little ability to consider or manage regional needs.
Now is the time for political leadership.
Apart from generic CRD issues, the Peninsula area will be faced with several sub-regional issues. New retail outlets, the decline of downtown Sidney, ongoing traffic issues/highway upgrades, and interfaces with B.C. Ferries and the Victoria International Airport are among the local challengers.
Municipal neighbours to the north-west, the City of Duncan and District of North Cowichan, have recognized their common interests and are placing a question on the fall election ballot.
The major objective and core request of Amalgamation Yes remains unchanged: for local councils to support the democratic right of their residents to provide policy advice through a non-binding referendum question. It is apparent from media coverage and thousands of signatories to the AY petition that there is growing voice of anger and frustration from residents who are being denied the opportunity to be consulted and heard.
The consensus of a need for a review of possible re-structuring of local government within the CRD is almost universal.
AY is offering enhanced information to solicit council support for the objective of a democratic voice for residents.
A background paper, A Case for a Saanich Peninsula Municipality: A Second Look, will assist municipalities on how to ensure that the best interests of the community are taken into account. It provides an opportunity to enfranchise the electorate, through a non-binding question on the next ballot.
For example, a revised question might be:
Are you in favour of approaching the Province of B.C. to provide funding for a study to investigate the feasibility, costs and implications of amalgamating the municipalities of the Saanich Peninsula?”
Earle Anthony, Secretary, and Susan Jones, Chair,