Is amalgamation a way out of having to foot the bill for big, municipal projects? Some taxpayers in Central Saanich must think so, as councillors there are using such terms as reasoning behind a call to explore what a municipal merger might look like on the Peninsula.
The district went to a tri-municipal meeting on March 13 with North Saanich and the Town of Sidney asking that the topic of amalgamation be researched, so they could better answer public questions about the costs of — and chances of — amalgamating with their neighbours.
It’s not uncommon for some people to call for amalgamation in the face of potential tax increases to pay for large projects. Central Saanich is investigating building a new town hall and police services building for millions of dollars, which will require a referendum question. Reaction has been mixed.
Will amalgamation eliminate that and other costs? That’s the $64,000 question.
Municipal leaders highly doubt there would be any cost savings in a major merger of Peninsula municipalities — will experienced politicians recalling other mergers that saw a doubling of staff resources and adding to the overall costs of doing business. They do admit, however, that they have little ammunition to either fight or favour amalgamation. So, the mayors and chief administrative officers will look into how to proceed.
Saving money, however, should not be the overriding decision for amalgamation. What’s more important is identity. Do each of the Peninsula’s communities have their own, unique identity and would anyone want to sacrifice that for a bigger local government?
That’s a much better question to ask and have answered.