By Roger Stonebanks, citizen reporter
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs told Saanich Voice Online (SVO) on Nov. 7 that it has not received a request for funding an amalgamation study involving the City of Victoria and the District of Saanich.
The ministry commented after SVO brought the ministry’s attention to a statement on the website of the lobby group Amalgamation Yes that, “The Province has agreed to fund one-third of the cost of a Citizens’ Assembly process and the Technical Analysis.” The statement is contained within the posted Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of Amalgamation Yes last June 16, attended by 15 members – found HERE
The following month, however, Saanich council was informed at its July 9 meeting in a report dated July 3 by Angila Bains, manager of legislative services, that – “Please note that funding from the Province has not been confirmed to date.” As well, council was cautioned at its July 9 meeting that (from the Minutes) – “The Provincial regulation has a limit of $60,000 per fiscal year per municipality; grants can be given to multiple municipalities each year.” (Brent Reems, director of building, bylaw, licensing and legal services for Saanich).
Saanich and Victoria voters both gave approval on Oct. 20 to this question – “Are you in favour of spending up to $250,000 for establishing a Citizens Assembly to explore the costs, benefits and disadvantages of the amalgamation between the District of Saanich and the City of Victoria?” Both councils have previously expressed the hope that BC will join in and contribute a like amount – up to $250,000 – for a total of up to $750,000 for the assembly and study.
After the referendums, Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson told SVO,
“The voters of Saanich and Victoria have signalled their support for an amalgamation study, and the respective councils need to determine next steps. Once the councils agree on the scope and process for the Citizen’s Assembly, I am open to discussing specific proposals. When the municipalities agree on a proposal, their councils may jointly apply for a funding contribution from the province for a study.”
The ministry reiterated the BC position to SVO on Nov. 7. Here it is:
“The ministry has not received a request for funding for the amalgamation study. There is work the municipalities need to undertake before they can request provincial funding for the study.
“Now that the voters of Saanich and Victoria have signalled their support for an amalgamation study, the municipalities would need to develop a shared view and scope of the study process and agree on the details.
“Once they agree on a proposal, their councils may jointly apply for funding from the province for a study.
“Once the ministry has received and assessed the viability of the proposal and how it fits within the framework for such grants as established by regulation, the minister will let the councils know if their funding request is approved.”
Shellie Gudgeon, president of Amalgamation Yes, told SVO she believes a one-third share by each of Victoria, Saanich and BC is “secure.”
She pointed to a letter dated March 7 by Minister Robinson (found HERE) – and commented:
“Mayor Atwell and Mayor Helps exchanged correspondence with the Ministry after Saanich council passed a motion to contact other municipalities concerning any interest in looking into amalgamation. The attached letter from Selina Robinson, dated March 7 of this year has supporting information on the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 funding. Note that Page 1 of her letter states:
“Amalgamation studies by their nature are collaborative endeavours among municipalities. Should you be ready to advance a joint specific study proposal – as the City of Duncan and District of North Cowichan did in 2016 – it would be considered in the same way.”
“Page two, in referring to the Duncan – North Cowichan proposal as a template – under the third point reads:
– “Resources required (estimated $145,000, plus staff time, with each municipality and the Province to contribute one-third of costs)”
“Based on the statements in the Minister letters and discussions with the two Mayors, it was clear that, once all the requirements of the ministry were met, funding would follow as per the Duncan – North Cowichan model.
“The AGM [of Amalgamation Yes]was held on June 16, 10 days prior to the Combined Saanich – Victoria COW [Committee of the Whole] meeting, hence prior to the formal decision on whether to ask a Public Opinion question and prior to deciding upon the wording.
“Perhaps the person who responded to you from the Ministry did not know of the Minister’s letter of March 7, wherein 1/3 provincial funding is implied (sufficient for our AGM report) and, of course, we (AY) realized that there would be a process that the Ministry would require Saanich and Victoria to go through before funding would be promised – Saanich and Victoria, having received majority votes in favour of a Citizens’ Assembly, will now have to “go through the hoops” to obtain funding, just as Duncan and North Cowichan did.
“We remain confident that once a joint committee of the two councils is convened, the scope of the study determined and the terms of reference established, the Province will provide 1/3 of the funding requirements.”
HERE is the last SVO news story on this subject including links to earlier stories.