by Roger Stonebanks, citizen reporter
Saanich council is looking for dance partners for the Amalgamation Waltz.
And Saanich is also looking for an orchestra leader – the BC government – to lead the band by establishing and paying for a Citizens Assembly for Amalgamation – with any interested municipalities in the region.
“When it comes to land-use decisions in all of these communities, people are fiercely passionate about making local decisions that are in the interest of local communities,” Premier John Horgan
The easy part in the equation is the BC government. It won’t do anything unless it senses a serious groundswell of support for the dance. Why? It’s a divisive political issue locally. And, there’s also nothing about the subject in Premier Horgan’s current mandate letter (July 18) to Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson. More than that, Horgan made it clear to the State of the Island Economic Summit last October that while he will be an ally as far as amalgamation of services is concerned – local voices need to remain strong in regional growth strategies.
“When it comes to land-use decisions in all of these communities, people are fiercely passionate about making local decisions that are in the interest of local communities,” he said. Horgan’s constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca is diverse like the Capital Region itself. It has four municipalities – Langford, Metchosin, Highlands and Sooke – and a large unincorporated area extending to Port Renfrew.
And speaking of a needed groundswell – the Saanich council chamber was almost empty on Dec. 18 when committee of the whole considered council’s Governance Task Force Standing Committee report on the earlier Governance Review Citizens Advisory Committee (GRCAC) report. Only three persons addressed Mayor and Council, one of them from the lobby group Amalgamation Yes. Two speakers commented on the near-empty chamber. One count put the pubic attendance at eight – and that included two GRCAC members.
Nor is this public apathy about amalgamation/governance anything new. Consider this excerpt from the Saanich Voice Online news story (Oct. 18) about the
GRCAC report – 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.
Who might dance with Saanich? Victoria might. It’s always favoured amalgamation and voters supported the idea in 2014. Who would lead and who would follow in that dance? Oak Bay wouldn’t – simply not interested and voters opposed the amalgamation idea in 2014. Esquimalt? Unlikely.
Who else borders Saanich? View Royal – unlikely. Highlands? No. Central Saanich? No. A bit of history – Central Saanich was once part of Saanich but voters took it out in 1950 and separate it has remained since then.
North Saanich, Sidney, Langford, Colwood, Metchosin, Sooke – if you are not at least contiguous with Saanich it does not seem to make sense to agree to dance.
Safe prediction (if any prediction in politics is ever safe): At best, it will be a slow waltz. No quickstep here. Except, perhaps – if it develops into a ground-
level municipal election issue (voting day is Oct. 20). Then all predictions are off.
For more stories on amalgamation efforts and Saanich’s governance discussion go to saanichvoiceonline.ca and use SVO’s search function.
For the SVO news story about the Saanich meeting on Dec. 18 – click HERE