Community News

Amalgamation Revisioning?

Nov 02, 2015 Editor

Blue Skies May be Clouding Over for the Pro-amalgamates in #YYJ

by Roger Stonebanks, citizen reporter

Peter Fassbender, the new minister for Community, Sport and Cultural Development, will outline current BC government thinking on amalgamation and governance in a luncheon speech to the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 17.

If recent indications stand up, he may not share the same ‘blue sky vision’ for amalgamating the Capital region as his predecessor, Coralee Oakes, expressed last March to a BC Liberal Party meeting in Victoria.

While the Chamber has    long been a proponent of amalgamating the region, the A-word is missing from the chamber’s recent lunch invitation – “Hear Minister Fassbender speak on CRD governance – the way forward!”

The A-word was also missing when Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen gave a newspaper interview about his meeting with Fassbender at the Union of BC Municipalities convention in September — “A-word off the radar for province,” the Oak Bay News reported.

Still, when Premier Clark replaced Oakes with Fassbender last July, the written mandate to Oakes was renewed unchanged to Fassbender with the A-word along with the alternative “integrate service delivery” – “Develop and present options to Cabinet on potential processes under which local governments could either amalgamate or integrate service delivery by June 30, 2016.”

Mayor Jensen told the Oak Bay News that he, Coun. Tom Croft and Chief Administrative Officer, Helen Koning, had “an open and frank discussion and certainly what I thought was quite different was the tone being set by Minister Fassbender around the whole question of amalgamation. The position that was very clearly articulated was that this government will follow the law and not change the law that says no municipality will be forced into amalgamation. He also said there would not be any studies done with a focus on amalgamation, but
his ministry was very much open to facilitating conversations about local governments working together efficiently and effectively.”

Jensen does not foresee the province “launching into any study of any kind with respect to the Capital Regional District. I think they see themselves more as a facilitator.”

Esquimalt Coun. Beth Burton-Krahn said the published commentary “certainly lines up with what Minister Fassbender said at the UBCM forum on Strong Communities” when he was asked about governance in Greater Victoria.

Burton-Krahn reported on the Facebook Page, Local Governance Talks 2.0, a page which she moderates, that Fassbender commented, “There is not a common point of view across the region – there are a variety of perspectives out of the referendum [in eight of 13 municipalities in Greater Victoria last November] and that current government policy – in fact legislation – means he will not force communities to do anything and that the government will not force anything.” He added that, “his staff will help facilitate any discussions with communities that wish to seriously explore options but he would not lead it, he would not lead
discussions.”

Meanwhile, Saanich is pressing ahead with its own governance review that voters approved last November in a referendum question that avoided the word amalgamation: ”Do you support Council initiating a community-based review of the governance structure and policies within Saanich and our partnerships within the Region?”

Saanich is seeking 13 Saanich residents to serve on its Governance Review Citizens Advisory Committee. (Application can be downloaded HERE). The committee members will be recommended to council by a focus group comprised of representatives of Saanich Advisory Committees plus two members of the Saanich Community Assoc. Network.

“All Saanich residents with an interest in this important topic are encouraged to submit an application. Council is committed to seek diversity – young adults, young parents, seniors, homeowners, renters, newcomers, long-time Saanich residents and taxpayers,” Saanich said in a press release.

The written application deadline is Nov. 20 and the committee will start work in January. Successful applicants must be prepared for a minimum 18-month commitment. All committee meetings will be open to the public.

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For earlier news stories about amalgamation/governance, enter “amalgamation” in the search function