by Roger Stonebanks, citizen reporter
The BC government has firmly placed the initiative for any Citizens Assembly on Amalgamation in Greater Victoria on local governments themselves.
In a statement to Saanich Voice Online on March 26, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs stated –
“The process of governance review is locally driven and it is up to local governments to develop specific, collective proposals for changes in local governance.”
But in early January, Victoria and Saanich councils passed identical motions calling on the BC government simply “to establish and fund a Citizens Assembly on Amalgamation with interested municipalities.” Since that time there has been no elaboration and no “interested municipalities” have emerged to join Victoria and Saanich.
The ministry statement also said: “The Province has been in correspondence with the municipalities of Saanich and Victoria to explain some of the principles and considerations for governance reviews, including some of the recent experiences in Duncan and North Cowichan with their amalgamation study process. We are always open to discussing specific, practical service and governance proposals made by interested local governments working together – proposals that clearly indicate the local governments’ plans for how they would proceed in the best interests of their residents.”
The ministry’s statement came after Saanich Voice Online asked for a response following posted comments by View Royal Mayor David Screech on the Facebook Group “Local Governance Talks 2.0.” He posted that he had heard second-hand (i.e. unconfirmed) that the Province offered to pay one-third of the cost of a Citizens Assembly on Amalgamation for Victoria and Saanich – “So, it would be a third each.”
The one-third share arrangement was used for Duncan and North Cowichan and their Citizens Assembly on Municipal Amalgamation.
The ministry told Saanich Voice Online that Municipal Affairs Minister, Selina Robinson, in a letter to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell, “outlined the key elements included in the Duncan-North Cowichan proposal to the Province. Given the diversity of communities in BC, every restructure study is different – but the basic elements of one study process can be illustrative for other communities. In the case of Duncan-North Cowichan, the estimated resources required to fund an amalgamation study through a Citizens’ Assembly were $145,000 plus staff time, with each municipality and the Province contributing one-third of the costs. The letter also highlights other important considerations – for example, prior to any financial resources being committed and put in place, the municipalities have to come to an agreement in regards to a specific study question, defined scope for the project and organization and processes for a study.”
SVO has emailed Mayors Helps and Atwell for their comments. This article will be updated as more information becomes available.
The full background including the final report of the Duncan-North Cowichan Citizens Assembly on Municipal Amalgamation can be found HERE.