AMALGAMATION LOBBY GROUP BRINGING MESSAGE TO MARY WINSPEAR HALL
by Roger Stonebanks, citizens reporter
The lobby group Amalgamation Yes is taking its 2018 campaign to the Saanich Peninsula with a public Peninsula Town Hall event on Saturday March 3 at the Mary Winspear
Centre in Sidney.
The subject will be citizens assemblies on amalgamation “and particularly the experience of our municipal neighbours on lower Vancouver Island, the city of Duncan and the district of North Cowichan,” said Shellie Gudgeon, chair of Amalgamation Yes (Capital Region Municipal Amalgamation Society), which is hosting the Town Hall between 10 a.m. and noon.
“The provincial government did agree to fund a study to address this question and a study was done,” North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall
The mayors and councillors of Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney have been invited to attend the Town Hall (the other 10 councils were copied on the invitation). Gudgeon reminded them in her invitation that in 2014 peninsula residents voted in favour in referendums (which were non-binding) to ask the BC government to fund an amalgamation study. The government, however, chose to fund a study of shared services.
Two participants in the Duncan-North Cowichan Citizens Assembly that last year recommended amalgamation will be speakers at the Town Hall – Coun. Maeve Maguire of North Cowichan and Mona Kaiser. A binding amalgamation referendum of voters in both municipalities is expected to be held this year.
Saanich council voted unanimously on Jan. 8 in favour of a motion that calls on the BC government “to establish and fund a Citizens Assembly on Amalgamation with interested municipalities.” Three days later Victoria council followed suit approving the same motion with only Coun. Ben Isitt dissenting. The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce is also advocating for a Citizens Assembly in line with its long-standing support for municipal amalgamation.
North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall told Saanich Voice Online that the BC government, after discussions with regional mayors and considering the variety of referendums in 2014 and the fact that no referendums were held in some municipalities, determined that the main issue to be considered after 2014 was the efficient region-wide
delivery of services.
“The provincial government did agree to fund a study to address this question and a study was done,” she said.
“The parameters of the research for that study included consultation with municipal and regional staff to determine existing practices and co-operative efforts. The study findings were made available to all with practical suggestions to remedy possible areas of oversight.”
Mayor Finall said the Citizens Assembly motions by Victoria and Saanich councils “will likely attract interest. Whether that will translate into a willingness by the BC government to establish and fund a Citizens Assembly on Amalgamation is yet to be determined.”
Sidney Mayor Steve Price did not respond to a request for comment. Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor is on vacation.
Saanich council also said it is receptive to the creation of a “regional police force” (its phrase) and Victoria council voiced similar support using the phrase “regional police service.”
Neither council said whether the lower island should be policed by the RCMP (which is responsible for North Saanich, Sidney, View Royal, Highlands, Langford, Colwood Metchosin, Sooke and points west) or by municipal police (who serve Central Saanich, Saanich, Oak Bay and Victoria-Esquimalt). Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell was to contact local mayors “requesting participation in discussions on the potential of a regional police force.”
Mayor Finall responded that, “There have been a number of informal discussions regarding integration of regional police services with efforts to encourage participation with the province in these discussions. The province is involved and they have agreed to finance discussions. This initiative is largely driven by municipalities with local police forces,
although communications have included those served by the RCMP. Needless to say there would be significant jurisdictional, legislative and economic issues to be
resolved in any discussions.”
Friday Feb, 9, 2018
Sidney Mayor Steve Price told Gudgeon he won’t be attending the Town Hall.
He said in a letter dated Jan. 30 that he released to Saanich Voice Online on Feb 9:
“We will watch with interest the current debate on having the province establish and pay for the creation of a citizen’s assembly for amalgamation between Victoria and Saanich, but to date, there has been no groundswell of public support for amalgamation in Sidney or on the Peninsula.
“Therefore, although I wish you all the very best regarding your session on the Duncan-North Cowichan experience as it relates to citizens’ assemblies, I will be declining the invitation to attend the March 3rd meeting as I believe the issue of amalgamation and integration of services has already been adequately addressed by the Province and any further work on this matter rests with the office of the Premier.”
Price noted that Premier Horgan said at the State of the Island Economic Summit last October, “that although he may be in support of an amalgamation of services – local voices need to remain strong in regional growth strategies.”
Price also said the BC government conducted the Capital Integrated Services and Governance Initiative Study that was released last year. “The public report concluded that service delivery, in a number of key service areas, is already substantially integrated at the regional or sub-regional level and that the Saanich Peninsula, in particular, is already very solid in this regard.”
After reviewing this study, Sidney council “supports the key recommendations to (1) build on in-progress regional service initiatives (2) create a regional framework for discussing service integration and governance and (3) evaluate new opportunities for improving service integration and governance.”
There have been a number of information discussions about integration of regional police services and the Province is involved and has agreed to finance formal discussions. Communications have included areas served by the RCMP but, “Needless to say, there would be significant jurisdictional, legislative and economic issues to be resolved in any discussions.”
After Mayor Price said he will not be attending the Town Hall, Mayor Finall of North Saanich told SVO she also will not be attending while Mayor Ryan Windsor of Central Saanich said he would.