Community News Local governance

Saanich Calling the Shots

Jul 04, 2015 Editor

by Roger Stonebanks, citizen journalist

Saanich’s own voter-approved governance review is, slowly, getting ready to roll.

It was last Nov. 15 that voters approved 21,437 to 2,780 (from an eligible 80,986 voters) this question in a non-binding referendum – “Do you support Council initiating a community-based review of the governance structure and policies within Saanich and our partnerships within the Region?”

After some deliberation, and many distractions, council tasked Saanich’s new interim Chief Administrative Officer Andy Laidlaw to move forward with the voter-requested community based internal review.

On June 15th Council received a draft Communications and Engagement  Roadmap-Governance Review Initiative from CitySpaces Consulting and a recommendation from Laidlaw that council provide staff with feedback and direction. After much discussion (see the Minutes of the June 15 Council/Committee of the Whole meetings posted on the District of Saanich website), council voted:

“That the Proposed Communications and Engagement Roadmap be referred back to CitySpaces Consulting Ltd. with the purpose of determining how the process could be constructed as a citizen-led initiative and that CitySpaces Consulting Ltd. engage with residents to get feedback on how a citizen-led committee could be structured.”

The vote passed 7-to-2 with Mayor Richard Atwell and Coun. Colin Plant wanting a Standing Committee of council.

Atwell said a Governance and Cooperation Standing Committee will be struck to make recommendations to council and once this committee has been struck, items will have to be coordinated between the Standing Committee and the citizen-led committee. He asked members of council
to email him if they are interested in serving on the Standing Committee.

Council then agreed without dissent “That Council set aside time at a future open meeting to discuss the nature of Standing Committees.” Coun. Fred Haynes said council needs to understand more clearly how Standing Committees may be formed. (The District of Saanich website describes Standing Committees this way – “Standing Committees are those established by the Mayor for matters considered to be better regulated and managed by means of such committees. The Mayor appoints all members of a standing committee. At least one-half the members must be Council members. The Finance Audit and Personnel Committee is the only existing standing committee.”

Meanwhile, council heard from seven residents with divided opinions on a potential Capital Region governance study by the BC government. Council had agreed on May 25 to this motion:

“1. Saanich write a letter to [Community, Sport and Cultural Development] Minister Coralee Oakes indicating our willingness, in principle, to participate in a study of governance in the region, dependent upon the Terms of Reference and nature of the study proposed. The letter will be developed by Mayor and Council with the assistance of staff; and

“2. Prior to drafting a letter to Minister Coralee Oakes, residents will be invited to a public meeting, to be scheduled at the earliest opportunity, to provide feedback for Mayor and Council as to what should be included in the letter.”

Coun. Haynes clarified that the nature of the letter is about governance, not amalgamation. Coun. Vic Derman noted that there are a number of issues to be dealt with before participation in the study takes place and the letter is not a commitment to participate. Council then agreed “That the letter to the Province, to be developed by Mayor and Council, be endorsed by Council at a future Council meeting, prior to it being send to Minister Oakes.” Council also agreed, “That Mayor Atwell, in consultation with Council, draft the letter to Minister Oakes.”

Oakes told Saanich Voice Online last April that her ministry, “is in the process of considering how best to proceed regarding the results of the referenda in the Capital Region.”

“The Ministry sees an opportunity to support a conversation on governance and service integration and has heard from some Mayors and Councils but needs to hear from others to gauge interest and better understand how to collaborate on this goal,” said Oakes, adding, “Decisions about potential next steps will come out of the Province’s considerations and future discussions between local governments and the provincial government.”

Prior to last November’s municipal elections, Oakes said in a statement, “For those communities who are interested in continuing to examine governance structures, following the election results I will make ministry staff available to provide necessary resources and support.”

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