If ever there was a sign that amalgamation was at a standstill — if not dead — in the capital region, it’s the tone of Sidney Mayor Steve Price during an interview with the News Review recently.
The issue of amalgamation came up during the wide-ranging interview, following on to a story on a recent town hall meeting between Central Saanich council and district residents. Mayor Ryan Windsor said from his perspective, there still could be some study from the province on the issue here, but indicated that there were more questions than answers — even now, more than a year after the 2014 local elections.
Price, on the other hand, left us with the impression that since the province isn’t keen on forcing amalgamation on the region’s 13 municipalities, the discussion should be turned towards integration of existing services to make them more efficient across the south Island.
In fact, Price left us with the distinct impression that area mayors — at least those from the Saanich Peninsula — are in no rush to explore amalgamation further.
In essence, they appear to be falling back to a stance held by North Saanich and Mayor Alice Finall prior to the 2014 municipal election — that few people are interested in outright amalgamation (at least in her community) and that the sharing of services works today and will work better in the future.
North Saanich was one of the last communities to include a referendum question on the subject — of the eight municipalities that did. That vote flew in the face of Finall’s so-called conventional wisdom, and saw a majority of electors ask their public officials to seek a provincial study on what amalgamation might look like here.
Now, however, we may be seeing what that caveat “non-binding question ” really means.
While we do not necessarily agree that amalgamation is the best road to travel, we would hope that municipalities do take the wishes of their electorate to heart and work with the province on what a series of combined communities might look like. To abandon the results of the referendum on such a weak caveat would erode our faith in the public process.