by Roger Stonebanks, citizen journalist
The BC government has advertised for a consultant to look at municipal governance in the Capital Region which it calls “a high profile issue.”
The advertisement is for what it called “the Initiative” – or more fully, “Capital Integrated Services and Governance Initiative.” It was placed on BC Bid website on March 23 with a deadline for submissions of April 15.
The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development said the results of non-binding referendums in November 2014 and meetings of local government leaders with ministers have shown “a common interest in gathering facts about current service delivery, increasing understanding about service delivery, best practices and exploring further the opportunities to better integrate service and governance (the Initiative).”
The ministry uses the phrase “service and governance integration” but not the word “amalgamation.” The province has made it clear in past statements that it will not impose a merger of municipalities and, indeed, the Community Charter requires that municipalities must obtain “yes” votes from their residents for any specific merger.
“The proposed Initiative will help facilitate fact-finding and discussion among local governments in the Capital Region to inform opportunities towards the efficient delivery of service that citizens need,” the ministry stated in its call for a consultant.
“The Initiative will provide the opportunity for differing perspectives to be heard and may well lay the groundwork for more specific solutions local governments may wish to pursue towards greater integration of services and governance.”
Both the present Community Minister, Peter Fassbender, and the previous minister, Coralee Oakes, were given a written “mandate” by Premier Clark to “Develop and present options to Cabinet on potential processes under which local governments could either amalgamate or integrate service delivery by June 30, 2016.” That deadline will not be met given that the deadline for consultant proposals to be received is April 15. The findings of any consultant process are not expected until the fall of 2016.
The ministry set out what the consultant or firm is to do:
– Work collaboratively with local governments to collect information on current services and governance arrangements in the Capital Region;
– Facilitate discussion in various forms within and among local governments and with stakeholders to help them identify underlying issues, barriers and opportunities “towards service and governance integration”;
– Provide examples from other jurisdictions and other public bodies which achieved service efficiencies;
– Provide information/facts about services and governance in the Capital Region and the findings from the Initiative in an accessible format that could be used by local governments to increase citizen understanding of local governments.
Fassbender commented that, “The Initiative will provide an opportunity for Capital area local governments to respond to the continued interest in the effective delivery of services and governance in the region. This fact-finding and information sharing exercise is an important first step to assist citizens to better understand the perspectives of the region’s local governments respecting current service delivery arrangements and any opportunities for future integration. It will also assist local governments to further their conversations and engagement with citizens and organizations.”
Saanich Voice Online has asked the local mayors for their reaction. Any comments received by SVO will be posted online for your information.
For previous news stories on amalgamation or governance go HERE