Monday, January 30, 2012

How did we end up with 13 municipalities anyway?

Why do communities incorporate?   Over the years there were different reasons of why, but the underlying interest always goes back to local people wanting some local control over their community.

The first to incorporate was Victoria in 1862.  This was first and only incorporation passed through the legislature of Vancouver Island.   The legislature of BC before union with Vancouver Island in 1867 incorporated the first city in BC, New Westminster, two years before Victoria.   New Westminster and Victoria were the only two cities incorporated before BC joined Canada.

The set of powers that the City of Victoria was allowed to have power over in 1862 was much different than today.   Specifically the City was not allowed to have any power over land use.

Till the turn of the century there seems to have been very little active movement towards more incorporation in the CRD.  Things changed shortly after the turn of the century.

The second municipality to incorporate in this region  was Sidney in 1905 - this included all of Sidney and North Saanich.  Given the distance from Victoria and the time it took to travel between the two, it made sense to incorporate.   This municipality disolved in 1911 because the people did not think it was sustainable.

Meanwhile the people of Oak Bay and Saanich wanted to become part of the City of Victoria, but Victoria did not want to expand because there was a fear that Oak Bay and Saanich would cost the citizens of Victoria too much.   This debate continued for a number of years until the residents of Saanich and Oak Bay gave up.   The result was the creation of Oak Bay and Saanich in 1906.

Esquimalt incorporated in 1912 because there was a need for local services.   Esquimalt had a very defined core and felt removed from the City of Victoria.   It also had a very different history and people that lived there.   With the creation of the Canadian Navy in 1910 and the transfer of the base from Great Britain to Canada, the future of Esquimalt looked very different.

From 1912 to 1950 the region only had four municipalities.

Central Saanich was formerly Ward 6 of Saanich but seceded in 1950 to become Central Saanich.   The reason for this was that the farming community of Ward 6 did not feel it was well represented by the core of Saanich which was becoming a suburb of the City of Victoria.

Sidney incorporated in 1952 because the population was larger now than in 1911 and with the new airport the expectation was for more growth,   North Saanich was not part of Sidney this time.

North Saanich first came  into existence in 1956 as a Fire Prevention District and then a municipality in 1965. With the creation of North Saanich in 1965, the core and peninsula were all covered by local governments.

From 1965 to 1984 the region had seven municipalities.

The process on the westshore to get to incorporation took a long time.   Numerous studies were done, votes were taken, but incorporation did not happen.   One of the reasons for this is that in BC it is financially beneficial not to incorporate.  The province looks after many of the costs such as roads and policing.   Incorporating has normally meant an increase in taxes.

Another major issue on the Westshore was what the boundaries should be of any new municipalities.   Various divisions already existing for planning purposes, land management and simply as communities.   The Westshore as we know today did not have end up as we know it today.   We could have had from four to eight municipalities instead of the six we do now.

In the mid 1980s the first municipalities were formed on the Westshore, Metchosin in 1984 and Colwood in 1985.   In 1988 View Royal was formed out of the lands left over between between Esquimalt, Saanich and Colwood.

Langford had been a sticking point in the incorporation movement on the Westshore.   There were at least three votes before 1985 against incorporation and votes against forming a single municipality with Colwood.   It took till 1992 for Langford to incorporate.

A year later the Highlands incorporated.   I do not have the details but will look into it, but I have to assume it came about because of resistance to being part of Langford.

The final incorporation in the region was Sooke on December 7th 1999.   In my opinion, Sooke makes sense as a community and should have been incorporated earlier, but given the number of roads in Sooke, the cost of incorporation was not going to be cheap.

For the last 12 years we have had 13 municipalities which really is a lot more than we need.  I do not think that there is much likelihood that we could have any more municipalities, though there are a couple of potential ones that may incorporate some day.

East Sooke was not willing to join Sooke.  With a population of 1500, it is not much smaller than the Highlands when it comes to population.

The population of Shirley/Jordan River is around 700 people which would make it the smallest municipality in the CRD based on population, but it would be long short of the smallest municipal population in BC, there are 20 municipalities with smaller populations.
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