Monday, November 17, 2014

What now for amalgamation?

To be clear to everyone, the provincial government is not going to do anything unless it is asked to do so by the local governments.  

I think we are most likely to see the most action on amalgamation on the Peninsula and I suspect that Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor will become the leader on the issue.   The three peninsula communities have worked together closer than any others in this region.   They actually meet together as councils several times a year.   Politically the process is likely to move forward not only because of the leadership from Central Saanich but also because the civil war in North Saanich is over, for the moment, and the new mayor in Sidney is pragmatic.

I would be surprised if they did not start their process within the next few months.

In the core things are much more mixed.  Oak Bay has shot the idea down and has a mayor who is dead set against looking into the issue at all.  They are clearly not going to be anyone's partner.

Saanich voted for a process that will take a number of years to get the point where they can talk with neighbours about amalgamation.  The new mayor, Richard Atwell, is supportive of amalgamation but he has to work within the context of his council.   I do not see how he can end-run the process envisaged by the out going mayor to engage the community on the way forward without breaking his promise of being more open to the public

One of the most obvious "marriages" in this region is Saanich and Victoria, but given the track record of the city of Victoria over the last decade or more it is hard to see how this "marriage" could easily be made palatable to the people of Saanich.  There are ways to deal with all the issues, but it is complex

Both Esquimalt and Victoria voted in favour but I suspect that Esquimalt is not likely to be keen on going down the amalgamation path with Victoria;   Victoria has 82,595 residents versus Esquimalt's 16,389, Victoria has five times the number of people.  Also, the Esquimalt experience with the police is hardly one that inspires confidence.   If anything is going to happen here it will only come if the new council in Victoria shows themselves to be trustworthy partners for Esquimalt.

Esquimalt can consider two directions other than hooking up with Victoria - either with Saanich or with View Royal.  

View Royal did not have a vote on studying amalgamation but I do not think the council would be opposed to sitting down with Esquimalt and talking.   There are reasons why this match might make sense, though serious studying is needed.

  • Large parts of View Royal are very closely connected to western parts of Esquimalt.   
  • The two municipalities are small but a combined one could allow for some efficiency in operations and also allow for a deeper pool of knowledge and skills at City Hall.  
  • It would improve local government planning for the Gorge and Esquimalt Habour.  
  • Esquimalt already has a professional fire department and realistically View Royal should probably have one.  Amalgamating could be beneficial for that 
  • Esquimalt would be able to get out of the Victoria Police contract
The other direction for Esquimalt is partnership with Saanich.   Saanich has been seen as financially well managed but once again it is not a partnership of equals.  Also, Saanich is committed to a process that will delay any discussion of amalgamation.

Meanwhile on the Westshore only Langford voted on the issue and it was a very narrow win for actually amalgamating Langford into a larger municipality but there are no neighbouring partners that had a vote as well.   They are partner-less so I think it will die there on the Westshore for now.
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