Thursday, April 12, 2012

Better local governance, the main reason why we should amalgate

For a local government jurisdiction to be an effective governance unit it has to be an area that encompasses most of the activities people do every day.  This means people should be able to live, work, shop and play in one municipality.   At the moment in this region very few people accomplish even two of that list.

Why is it good from a governance point of view to have a local government boundary that allows people to live, work, shop and play within it?   For any local government to govern well it has to consider all aspects of the day to day life of the population.  It has to be able to consider the holistic city.  It has to be able to look at the bigger picture and develop a real long term plan.  When you divide up one city into multiple local jurisdictions you end up with governance for the interests of a small part of the city without consideration of the rest of the city.  You also end up effectively governing only for one aspect of need of the public.

At the moment most of our small local governments govern only for the interests of existing residents, they do nothing to think about the bigger picture, they do not consider the environment, they will not take responsiblity for their share of the regional needs, and generally operate from a selfish governance model.

The most complete municipality we have is Victoria, but even then it is much less so than it used to be.   I live and work in Victoria - the advantages of a home office, but I shop in Saanich, Esquimalt or Langford.   My recreation is mainly in Esquimalt and Saanich.   My kids go to school in Saanch and Esquimalt.   My life is like

Langford has all the hallmarks of a complete community, but while it offers a reasonable amount of work, shopping and playing oppurtunities, it falls down because the majority of the people living there do not work there.  In the 2006 census only 16.9% of the Langford residents worked in Langford.

Percentage of people that work in the municipality they live in:
  1. Victoria 50.4%
  2. Sidney 29.5%
  3. Saanich 23.4%
  4. Sooke 18.9%
  5. Central Saanich 18.5%
  6. Esquimalt 18.5%
  7. Langford 16.9%
  8. Oak Bay 11.3%
  9. North Saanich 11.3%
  10. Colwood 7.9%
  11. View Royal 7.3%
  12. Metchosin 7.2%
  13. Highlands 5.5%
What happens when the vast majority of the people in a municipality do not work in the municipality?    The local council is elected by people who do not work in the municipality and therefore the council does not consider the development of work spaces important.  It also means you have people spending years on councils and never learning about any sort of holistic or bigger picture governance because all that is important is the cul-de-sac where you live.

Did you know that four of the 13 municipalities in the CRD effectively have no industrial land and one, Oak Bay, does not provide a single square meter of industrial land?  North Saanich, Oak Bay, View Royal and Metchosin expect  the rest of the region to provide the industrial lands that are needed to make the whole city be able to operate.  It is on industrial lands that the bulk of the blue collar jobs in this region are located.

The OCPs for View Royal and Oak Bay have no consideration in them for the needs of the services just to have the city survive.   They have written their OCPs as if providing land for the boring but crucial background services for the city to operate will be provided by someone else.   Neither one of them addresses the issue of ensuring the employment needs of the people, once again they operate as if others will provide it.

These same problems play out as well with shopping.

Did you know that in you live in Oak Bay there is no way for you to buy fuel for your car?    There is no way I can imagine anyone ever getting approval to build a new gas station in Oak Bay, the public would revolt and council would say no.   Someone else can deal with all the problems that come from gas stations.

North Saanich, Metchosin, and Highlands, all have virtually no shopping.  None of them have any plans to fix this and simply assume someone else will provide.    This happens in these three municipalities  because they are governing for a narrow set of interests - the interests of residents and nothing else.   Their neighbourhoods likely should never have shopping, but they have to be part of the bigger picture so that we make the best decision where we shop.  An unintended consequence has been the development of most of our new shopping is not located anywhere close to where most people live and has caused non-work travel miles in this region to rise over the last decade.

As long as the primary concern of most of the local governments in this region is to govern for the interests of residences and nothing else, we end up with everyone passing the buck on development of places where we shop, work and play.   Unbalanced governance like this diminishes us all.   We also end up with many unintended consequences which cause us problems for decades.

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