Community News

Amalgamation in the Saanich By-Election

Sep 11, 2017 Editor

What do the ten by-election candidates have to say on governance?

Saanich Voice Online asked the ten Saanich Council candidates the following two questions pertaining to regional governance and amalgamation:

1. Are you in favour of any form of amalgamation in the Capital Region including Saanich, or do you prefer our current model of shared regional services? Please
explain.

2. Are you or have you ever been a member of the amalgamation lobby group Amalgamation Yes?

Here are the full responses of all nine candidates that provided a response (in alpha):

Nathalie Chambers

Saanich is a unique municipality because it includes a little bit of everything – from farmland to suburbs, from beautiful coastal mansions to low income community housing. As a farmer and a business woman, I know firsthand that good governance in Saanich is about being able to balance those communities.

If we were to amalgamate with Victoria, the concerns of our rural communities and food producers would get drown out by metropolitan issues. If we joined Central and North Saanich instead, the voice of our urban core might get lost. Saanich works because the current model allows us to balance the rural and the urban in a way that respects our diverse communities. Amalgamation puts that balance at risk.

I favour sharing services on a case-by-case basis to help cut costs instead. This way, we can achieve the same cost savings without sacrificing local control of our own communities.

In fact, I think our communities need more local, democratic decision-making – not less. Different regions and neighbourhoods have different needs, and no one understands those needs better than the people who live there. I want to empower those people to govern themselves, rather than creating a sprawling regional bureaucracy to do it for them.

That’s why I think we should give community associations and civic groups a greater role in local government instead of centralizing decision-making power in a large regional bureaucracy.

For me, the issue is simple; I want to bring local government closer to the people of Saanich, not move if further away.

2. Are you or have you ever been a member of the amalgamation lobby group Amalgamation Yes?

No.

Keith Andrew Davidoff

The amalgamation question is not a new one as we all know.  Voters in the past, including myself, have voted in favour of some type amalgamation.  There are benefits to both smaller governance and benefits to a larger overall model.  Are municipalities larger than Greater Victoria better off with an overarching municipal government or is the smaller, more ‘one on one’ approach better?

We need to move one way or another.  Amalgamation of the 13 municipalities will not happen if we don’t begin the process…right or wrong…start with something and build from it.  Mistakes will be made but we need to learn from those and build stronger.  If amalgamation were to happen, it will not happen overnight.

The goal of amalgamation would be to make it more affordable to live in Greater Victoria…to create efficiencies.  I believe a start to amalgamation would be to combine the Peninsula including the ‘Saanich’s’ and the Town of Sidney…amalgamating services…NOT trying to eliminate jobs. Full amalgamation may not be the answer at this time…a phased approach of smaller ‘bite size’ regionalization may be the answer…eg. Victoria/Oak Bay/Esquimalt; Langford/ Colwood /View Royal/Highlands; Sooke/Metchosin, and of course Saanich/Central Saanich/North Saanich/Sidney.

The process needs to begin and overtime, I believe a greater efficiency will develop a better sense of community.

2. Are you or have you ever been a member of the amalgamation lobby group Amalgamation Yes?

No

Michael Geoghegan

As outlined on my website,  I think all residents within the CRD should get to vote on an amalgamation referendum with a straightforward question to gauge the level of public support. Assuming the majority were in favour I would see a subsequent referendum outlining three options:  amalgamation into one municipality; amalgamation into three eg core, peninsula and westshore; and amalgamation into more than three but less than the current 13.

2. Are you or have you ever been a member of the amalgamation lobby group Amalgamation Yes?

Not that I recall but I have certainly been a proponent for reducing the current number of municipalities from 13 down to a more reasonable number but again that is a decision that should be made directly by voters via a series of CRD wide referendums not by municipal politicians.

Karen Harper

As a director (on leave) of Amalgamation Yes, I am proud of the work that led to the questions on the ballot in 8 municipalities during the 2014 municipal election. This resulted in the recently released provincial integrated service report (CISGI), but more still needs to be done. A full study of governance options, including the CRD, is required for us to be sure that we have the most effective governance model in the region.

In over 50 years, the CRD has never had a higher-level review. With or without amalgamation, that review is far past due. Additionally, every amalgamation in the province has been deemed a success by all. Why is that? Let’s look at those communities, study those successes. What can we learn from them? That study should include input and involvement of the residents of Saanich and the region, not only of the elected officials.

The 88% positive vote in Saanich to the governance and regional relationship review question during the 2014 election speaks to a deep seated concern by residents that we can do better. The only way to know what “better” may look like is to have a thorough review of governance in the region, not only of integrated services.  Indeed, the Integrated Services report states very clearly it is not an amalgamation study but this review should provide residents with choices to consider and vote for or against.

Marsha Henderson

This is a question that’s been around for over 100 years.  Rather than just another opinion, I offer a practical suggestion.  Regular third party reviews of how the CRD (and Saanich) is working (or not) and implementing and monitoring recommended improvements is a practical place to start positive change. Several years of scholarly research has produced little hard evidence showing cost savings and/or promised ‘efficiencies’ after amalgamations, which concerns me when other people’s money is being spent.   Because of that, at this point, I do support regular reviews of performance and policy, and was a frequent community attendee, invited participant and contributor in meetings of the citizen led Saanich Governance Review Committee, whose mandate was to do just that.

2. Are you or have you ever been a member of the amalgamation lobby group Amalgamation Yes?

No

Rebecca Jane Mersereau

In short, I am receptive to the amalgamation discussion, but much more information has to be brought to the table before we can responsibly venture down this path. We urgently need to improve regional governance to address our most critical issues like sprawl and traffic congestion. Amalgamation may be, but is not necessarily part of the solution. I think it is only prudent that we as a region consider the spectrum of options available to improve governance, from more service integration, up to and including amalgamation. We just don’t have enough information at this time to conduct an unbiased evaluation of these options. While there are some valuable findings in the province’s recently released review of integrated services and governance in the region, it unfortunately does not address this gap.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study amalgamation and local government structure and governance while doing my Master’s of Public Administration. Somewhat counter-intuitively, amalgamation has not yielded cost savings in any other Canadian jurisdictions. Notwithstanding that apparent red herring, there are other potential advantages of full or partial amalgamation in the region, such as increased leverage or clout, and an ability to better integrate land-use and transportation planning.

But there are also many risks associated with amalgamation. In the context of Saanich, I would be concerned about the fate of rural Saanich and our valuable agricultural lands, as well as our financial well-being. Due to prudent commitments by past Councils to aggressively pay down our infrastructure deficit (a commitment which incidentally appears to be eroding of late), we are in a much better position than some neighbouring municipalities to maintain our assets and hence our services. This financial resilience is a valuable asset that we should all be endeavour to maintain for the benefit of future residents.

2. Are you or have you ever been a member of the amalgamation lobby group Amalgamation Yes?



No.

Shawn Newby

I am in favour of one, or two, levels of government using the necessary funds to invest in a study that will outline the costs and benefits and various formats of amalgamation, I am comfortable voting yes or no, but I need the appropriate information first.

2. Are you or have you ever been a member of the amalgamation lobby group Amalgamation Yes?

No.

Art Pollard

Bigger is not necessarily  better. The question of amalgamation could be studied for further data . But at the moment due to the unique nature of each of our municipalities, I feel the current regional sharing is working fine. Redundancies could be overcome by better communication and sharing of resources.

No, I have never been a member of Amalgamation Yes nor do I have a desire to join it.

Ned Taylor

I’m certainly in favor of some sort of amalgamation within the CRD, there’s simply far too many municipalities. There’s many ways that we can more forward on this, but in general if the vast majority of citizens in my community support looking into amalgamation, then that’s exactly what I want to do.

On another note, if a process of amalgamation in the CRD occurred, border adjustments would of course be on the table. I’d like to see the Saanich and Oak Bay borders adjusted to put Uvic in a single municipality, allowing for the institution and its students to have proper local representation. This is one of the parts of my Platform.

2. Are you or have you ever been a member of the amalgamation lobby group Amalgamation Yes?

I have not been a member, however I’ve researched and stayed informed with their work and appreciate what they’re doing.