Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More raw notes from the Amalgamation Conversation - warning, long

Here is the next set of raw notes that Matt Wright sent out on behalf of the "Greater Victoria Amalgamation Conversation" group.  Matt has the notes up at

These are raw notes of what people at the event wrote down.    It is long and various themes repeat a lot.   If you want to see the originals that all this came from, you can email Shellie Gudgeon at to get copies of the copies of pictures of all the written pages.

Pages were labeled in no particular order. These comments were directly transposed from the large sheets of paper to this report for simple handling.
Page 1/Side 1:
What Don’t We Know? (In order to come together on where we are going next)
-How do we proceed? Referendum? Province Order?
-What is best model? Perhaps not effectively governed.
-What communities will be hurt by regional services (ie. policing)?
-What services would be best to amalgamate to start with?
-to reduce staff
-to reduce infrastructure
-value of services receiving—can we get more value for our dollars?
-planning and transportation—we don’t have a body that can take charge.
-whole is greater than the sum of the parts, we need more information about other governments.
-what would happen with CRD if Greater Victoria amalgamated?
-Successes, Challenges of those municipalities that have amalgamated.
-Taxpayers bearing brunt?
-When are we going to start going bankrupt?
-What are advantages of system we [currently] have?
-How do we simplify government without losing effectiveness?
What common approaches can we take?
-all neighbourhoods are equal
-we live in a common region
-it is challenging to live one’s life in one municipality
-neighbourhood associations: is there accountability

Page 1/Side 2:
What Can We Share?
-downtown core issues and associated costs
-identity, as Victorians
-affordable housing strategy
-agricultural planning and food security

Page 2/Side 1:
What We Don’t Know:
-we know taxpayers are bearing the brunt of taxation
-too much talk
-we don’t know what the initial cost would be (contracts, administration, disposal of assets).
-we don’t know what the best model is (disagree that we are overtaxed— the question is that we are not effectively governed)
-regional government is not accountable.
-how do we simplify government and retain neighbourhood rights?
-we don’t know, costs-successes-problems. Are wards a solution?
-we don’t know the electoral system.
-we don’t know advantages of our current system: what’s broken, what values (eg. diversity) that current system provides.
-what communities would benefit/would be hurt?
-is amalgamation of services the way to start (ie. fire services?)
-“echo, what’s around the table” the sum should be greater than the parts (gut feeling) “but is it”?
-don’t know what would happen with regional government CRD.
-don’t know when we are going to start going bankrupt.
-how do we proceed? What are the steps?
-Money. Taxes. Preserve Democracy. Representation.
-what is value of services we are receiving?
-can we be more efficient?

Page 2/Side 2:
What Could We Share?
-we are already doing some sharing and it isn’t working (water, sewage, recycling, police services, fire departments—eg. Esquimalt/Victoria: Is this [arrangement] working? It would depend on who you ask and do they all share equally?
-[another comment on this thought]: “it’s the governance that’s the issue”—[x thinks] “this is a diversionary question and we’re getting bogged down in details”.
-we could share funding and coordination of the arts.
-[we could share] transportation, fire, police
-[we could share] planning and transportation –this is a must
-the idea of shared policing is a deal breaker; voters in communities with great service will vote against.
-the common approach is: we are all equal, we could all pay.
-we share an identity; we cannot leave our lives in just one municipality—need to reframe.
-we all benefit from services that we don’t pay directly for.
-what is the common approach to planning? Strong neighbourhoods, frameworks for neighbourhod groups. Where’s the accountability of neighbourhood groups/
-regional planning with teeth.
There is an indication that these are all details—the larger thing we need to share is governance.
The fear of loss of services/loss of control will scuttle moves toward amalgamation, therefore, we need to reframe—we are all benefitting from services we are not directly paying for.

Page 3/Only Side
What Common Approaches Could We Take:
-people want to be responsible for decisions and for decisions that impact them (eg. direct democracy: keeping in touch with their local government).
-be engaged in decisions that touch our lives.
-all kinds of ‘place-based’ services, eg. police, planning [to be] accessible to local residents.
-affordable housing
-ability to control your area’s destiny
-establish neighbourhood assemblies: consultation and outreach in small communities
-good communication.

Page 4/What Could We Share? (Only Side):
-human resource
-CRD expansion
-sewage treatment
-homeless issue
-tea and crumpets
-social housing
-transit LRT
-some by-laws that are common to neighbouring communities
-road maintenance
-fire protection
-emergency services dispatch
-regional planning functions

Page 5/
-where is the political will?
-lack of effective regional plan
-amalgamation would enable us to get more federal dollars, (eg. housing infrastructure, transportation, sewer, water).
What Could We Share?
-policing, emergency, investment opportunities, resources, fire departments, successes and failures, by-laws (commercial), skill sets, municipal politics much more visible, hopes and fears, decision making, transportation aspirations, communication systems, quality of life, larger issues: harm reduction, affordable housing.
-what common approaches could we share? Planning: rebuilding of the system is required. Take the best from all the jurisdictions.

Page 6/Side 1: What We Don’t Know
-status of each 13 municipalities (similarities and differences, budgets, services)
-definition of amalgamation—what are we wanting to do, change, keep?
-knowledge/information of how other cities did structure it…suggestions of Toronto, Winnipeg.
-why aren’t politicians embracing the idea of amalgamation?
-what mechanism would we use?
-how the public sees it?

Page 6/Side 2:
What Could We Share?
-saving $$

Page 6/What Common Approaches Can We Take?
-tough question:
a) either mandate all 13
b) or piece by piece: police, fire, admin
c) give more decision/administration to CRD Board

Page 7
-[how could municipalities] interact?
-[relationship between] shared services and bureaucracy?

Page 8/What We Don’t Know
1. the carrying capacity of the region (49% municipalities; 51% capital region)
2. after the decision is done, does the land return to the government?
3. Amalgamation, does the will exist?
4. Is there a more effective way of governance?
5. Three Groups: Core, Westshore, Peninsula (get rid of the layers of authority)
What Could We Share?
What common approaches can we take?
-police service to be unified throughout the districts?

Page 9/What Could We Share?
What Common Approach Could We Take?
-police services!
-amalgamation yes!

Page 10/
-change legislation? Force amalgamation?
-what are the goals of amalgamation? Can they be achieved via amalgamation?
-identify problems—what are the solutions?
-problems recent? Result of peripheral municipalities?
-City of Victoria burdened with cost of regional infrastructure (Blue Bridge, Arena)
-Transportation needs: public LRT…
-What would amalgamation look like? (police? Fire protection? Ward system?)
-what do other jurisdictions share (ie. GVRD?)
-concerted approach to planning and development
-regional property tax rate

Page 11/Question 2: What Can We Share?
-what can we share?
-police services—Victoria, Esquimalt, RCMP
-Victoria bearing brunt of extra costs
-Issue #1: Everyone in Victoria suffers from apathy

Page 12
-how do we measure the effectiveness of local government services?
Then, model various sizes and configurations.
-what is a reasonable level of local government representation? Ratio of constituents to councilors.
Potential to Share:
-local government service
1. police/fire/
2. engineering: water, sewer, roads,
3. parks and rec
4. planning
5. business licence
6. building
*two words illegible

Page 13
Could we share common approaches?
-school district
-sports and recreation
-911 and emergency

Page 14: What We Don’t Know
Why can’t province legislate amalgamation?
-Premier can change legislation to allow it (forced amalgamation)
What do other people say when they are asked about amalgamation?
Don’t know of any other [area] with 13 mayors and 16 police forces.
Don’t know what is impact on 8 first nations communities.
Don’t know if we’d save $$.
Don’t know about municipalities other than Victoria think about it.
Don’t know where to start the process.
Don’t know the procedure required for amalgamation.
Don’t know what it would take to approve amalgamation, assuming it isn’t mandated by province.
Don’t know how individual community character could be maintained [in] amalgamation.
Don’t know if it would be as easy to get [in touch with] our councilor rep.
Don’t know if amalgamation has worked elsewhere.

Page 15: What Could We Share/What Common Approaches Could We Take
-share: policing, dispatch 911 emergency service, and Emergency
Management Services
-planning (land)
-homelessness, affordable housing files
Possible Models/Approaches:
-schools, health and social services, VIHA
-garbage, organics, recycle services

Page 16:
Deep Needs:
What Don’t We Know?
-each other’s priorities
-success in other places
-works for business/residents? Who benefits?
-representation #/1000 people
-costs across region
-0/D live-work
-where do we get data?
-how to measure efficiencies, effectiveness, accountability?
-who can create amalgamation processes?
-what are the distortions, inefficiencies, unfairnesses?
-what are the existing shared service agreements?
-how far along does this take us?
What Could We Share?
-common policing, fire
-land claims
-Murray [Langdon]
-building codes and application procedures
-traffic rules and transformation
-chickens by-law
-common approaches to Provincial/Federal [relations]

Page 17:
-will municipal politicians give up fiefdoms
-who benefits?
-what benefits?
-what will it cost (money, representation)
-what does it cost now (municipal staff and services?)
-how do we measure efficiency of local government.

Page 18:
What Don’t We Know?
-who will pay for this change?
-how funds/municipally are used?
-where services overlap, or there is duplication?
-how much 13 municipalities’ responsibilities overlap?
-can borders be changed?
-what would this cost/or would we save in taxes?
-a new model of “councils” with representatives from each municipalities?
-Town Hall “Feeds” for all to take part in a new system.
What Could We Share?
-police, fire, planning for the region, transportation, school boards merger to one.
-integration for arts, music, theatre (modern facility large enough), sports facilities, social programs, housing (low-income).
What Common Approaches Can We Take?
-to all of the above there could be common approaches.
-“homelessness” even though it falls on Victoria—all municipalities contribute to the problem we all should help.
-one mayor
-planning; two bridges will soon be out of service at the same time: Johnson St. Bridge and Craigflower Bridge—what if we had a single governing body? Would they do this?
-work, sleep, play [does not occur] in the same place; no input in areas other than where we sleep!
-330 000 people with too many mayors and councilors.
-one police chief
-provincial[ly] mandated change?
-one development plan, please!
-save parkland and bogs! Don’t build on them!

Page 19 Side 1:
What Don’t We Know?
How much and who is amalgamating, interacting?
How much is taking place?
Finances/Expenditures-is amalgamation a way of achieving more financial stability?
What’s broken? What are we trying to fix? What doesn’t work and focus on that.
Broken CRD representation on boards. Esquimalt is just a silent partner.
We can complain but no balance. Talking takes place after a decision is made. No accountability. Net result: cost.
More amalgamation—garbage, but not police because too contentious.
Going too far can become a monster. Tell us where it’s easy. When is it enough?
3 Universities should share their information. [Information?] Back up at different universities—problem that UVIC had recently with no back up.
Call centres don’t have same equipment, so can’t communicate.
“A” [amalgamation) putting society at risk? Can our government make decisions quickly enough? Natural Disasters. Some municipalities will be better prepared. Saanich offering View Royal fire services. What are the priorities?
Can’t hold BC Transit up as a good example of “A” [amalgamation]. This level of “government” prevents change.
Even if difficult, we have to do something about police sharing information.
All residents of CRD need to pay fair share for cost of services.
Should “A” [amalgamation] include government reform? Shared system?
What Can We Share?
-police services
-regional identity
-neighborhood sharing
-share corporate accounting system
-“A” [amalgamation] = the ability to speak as one voice to higher government.
-better to come with our design rather than have it imposed on us.
The model: instead of 13 municipalities, start reducing slowly.

Page 20: Only Side
Three school boards amalgamate
Art gallery and other performing arts.
Library facilities will be improved under common regional government.
“Personality” of areas can be maintained with one city with wards, neighbourhood associations and other models yet to be discovered.
Inherent red tape of dealing with 10+ municipalities with different bylaws, organizational structure and processes make it enormously costly.

Page 21: What We Don’t Know
What would new model look like.
Why the Mayors don’t want to amalgamate.

Page 22:
What problems are you trying to solve?
Why now? (Pushing for amalgamation)
Bigger isn’t always better; often it’s just bigger.
When everyone acts in their own best interest, then everyone takes responsibility for their own situation.

Page 23:
We don’t know the cost of amalgamation/versus existing costs x 13
What could we share/
-EMS [emergency management services]
-one mayor/one set of councilors/CRD/Sewer/Water/Bureaucracy/Policy
Development/IT systems/Contract Management/Zoning By-laws

Page 24:
What Don’t We Know?
What’s the problem?
Inefficient?—How to measure efficiency? What evidence [that current system is inefficient]?
What to amalgamate?
What are the boundaries of your community?
How to maintain distinctiveness of neighbourhoods?
What differences among municipalities in: taxes, services, social issues etc, building codes, zoning regulations, by-laws, permits.
What do these differences [see above] cost us? What benefits?
What Could We Share?
-Police, fire
-Homelessness, social services
-Road maintenance
-Business licenc[ing]
-Building codes
What Common Approaches Can We Take?
Regional police force

Page 25:
What Don’t We Know?
What sizes work for each service or facilities?
What non-financial costs (ie. time and knowledge) do we save or increase?
What are the fears of people who are against amalgamation.
1. emotional/intellectual amalgamation
2. tough to encourage economic development with so many levels/governments
3. opportunistic investors/developers will take advantage of divided approach, pit municipalities against each other (ie. Langford, Big Box)

Page 26:
Schools-education (public)
Infra[structure] roads, sewers, highways, garbage, waste management
Industrial Lands
Common Approaches?
(nothing written here)

Page 27:
What Don’t We Know?
-Who is going to pay for it?
-What funds are there? How [are they] allocated?
-Where do services overlap? What is the hidden cost of duplication?
-Would amalgamation cost more?
-How do services differ? Differing standards?
-Can municipal borders be changed? Power of Province within that?
-Could there be a ward system? Other models (ie. How did Toronto do it? Ottawa too)
-Is it possible to organize municipal services in a more rational fashion?
-What is the containment area of municipalities?
-What/Who is stopping it? Who doesn’t want it? How to provide localized services?
What Could We Share? What Common Approaches Could We Take?
-arena ?
-common approach to express needs to the Province
-bring back common sense to back a common approach
-arts and culture (new concert hall for the region)
-responsibility for social programs, shelters, addiction services, affordable housing
-common approach to involve the private sector, greater efficiency/more available dollars.
-how to preserve diversity/uniqueness of communities and/or neighbourhods.

Page 28:
What We Don’t Know:
1. Who wants amalgamation? Residents, service providers, politicians?
2. Who commissioned the study of amalgamation in the past?
3. What are the pros and cons of amalgamation?
4. What currently is amalgamated or shared services?
5. What has worked/not worked in other jurisdictions?
6. What is the inventory in each municipality that could be shared?
7. What would it cost?
8. How can we amalgamate and maintain and protect the individuality (unique personalities) of existing communities.
9. Who currently makes decisions about regional transportation.

Page 29:
What Don’t We Know:
What would make sense?
What is the cost of amalgamation?
What is wrong to begin with?
What are the inefficiencies?
If approved, how does process proceed to amalgamate?
How efficient or inefficient is current system?
What is our community?
What is distribution of taxes?
What are the negotiables?
What is each municipality with government?
What is stopping us?
How do you retain diversity of neighbourhoods with amalgamation?
Do we need to look at areas if growth within region-density.
What influence does CRD have to do with local planning?
Taxes/ratio per municipalities
Communication between?
What are the negotiables?
What are the individual relationships with Provincial government?
What is the fear?
How many overlapping by-laws are there?
Gross inefficiency.

Page 30:
Sad: Present Situation
What Could We Share?
Police, fire, needle exchange, costs, homelessness, cost of blue bridge,
parks and recreation, school board 61, maintenance, roads.
What Common Approach Could We Take?
Health standards (needle exchange, costs, homelessness)
Police, Fire (regional force)
Cost of Blue Bridge (toll if not Victorian)
Maintenance Roads (fix potholes together)

Page 31:
What Could We Share?
City Councils and Staff
Maintenance Yards and Equipment
Standardized Licencing and Permits
Long Range Infrastructure Planning and Building
Regional Transportation Planning—regional planning, period!
Shared Regional Mission.
Library facilities
Recreational Facilities
Purchasing Power
School Boards
Affordable Housing and Dealing With Homelessness
Common Approaches:
Investigate those municipalities that have gone through amalgamation process (what worked? What didn’t work?)
Start disbanding all the “silos” within each municipal hall so cooperation starts at this level.
Articulate joint values (especially re: land use and shared vision)
Provincial government must re-instate effective regional planning.
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