Saanich Governance Review
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Citizens’ Assembly on Amalgamation?

Oct 18, 2017 Editor

Saanich Governance Report is in – complete with recommendations

by Roger Stonebanks, citizen reporter

The 35-page Saanich Governance Review report recommends that Saanich council – with interested Greater Victoria municipalities – call on the BC government to establish and fund a Citizens’ Assembly on Amalgamation “and actively support and participate in the Assembly.”

This is one of the recommendations in the report by the 12-member Governance Review Citizen Advisory Committee which was appointed by council after residents voted “Yes” in 2014 to this non-binding question: “Do you support Council initiating a community-based review of the governance structure and policies within Saanich and our partnerships within the Region?” The report stated that while public feedback was thoughtful and well considered, “the number of participants in the survey and the public meetings was disappointingly low.” It added:

“Despite offering numerous opportunities for public involvement, various methods to provide feedback, and considerable promotion of the opportunities, participation levels in the engagements represented less than 1 per cent of the Saanich population.”

There were only 474 participants in total and the report “cannot determine how many unique voices were represented” because some people participated in more than one type of engagement.

The advisory committee was given support by the consulting firm of Sirius Strategic Solutions in its public engagement and advice in fulfilling its mandate. The report is on the agenda for Saanich council this Monday (Oct. 23). The review cost Saanich $175,000.

The report said that to inform citizens participating in the proposed assembly, a study would be conducted to provide a baseline set of facts on the costs of service delivery and governance across the region. By agreeing to support an assembly process (if it does), Saanich and other municipalities “should be required to take the findings of the process to referendum directly.”

It recommended: “In 2027, a decade from today, or a decade after a Citizens Assembly is convened, if such assembly is convened, convene a second ad hoc Governance Review Citizen Advisory Committee to once again explore and address local governance in the District of Saanich and alternatives. This is to recognize that the governance of Saanich and the region is an evolving question that warrants regular study.”

In introductory remarks to its Citizens Assembly recommendations, the report said “There wasn’t consensus on the Committee about whether Saanich should pursue an amalgamation of some kind. However, there does seem to be a consensus that discussion on this topic shouldn’t be shied away from. We feel this is probably consistent with the views of the general population of Saanich, based on our consultations and community feedback. The topic of amalgamation appears as an attempt to answer a variety of issues  raised by Saanich citizens, but through the Governance Review we were unable to engage with the public at a deep enough level on this topic to truly understand all the issues and interests behind calls for amalgamation.”

A Citizens Assembly, said the report, “appears to be the best way forward on the question of amalgamation. At the same time, we acknowledge that Saanich pursuing amalgamation on its own is not possible due to provincial legislation (Community Charter, Part 9, Division 1, Article 279). Amalgamation by its very nature must be a collaborative exercise with other municipalities. Until a consensus emerges across the region we do not recommend that Saanich pursue its own amalgamation path.”

The report has many recommendations including a two-term limit for council members (this would require BC legislation), limiting and explaining in-camera meetings, earlier public posting of agendas, leadership training for councillors, assigning councillor liaisons to community associations, seeking provincial legislative changes to allow the chairperson of regional districts and up to 40 per cent of of regional board directors to be directly elected at-large – and Saanich should be receptive to the creation of a regional police force.  All the recommendations and comments are available in the report  – Click HERE

For previous Saanich Voice Online news stories, type “governance” and “amalgamation” into the search function.