Esquimalt looks to public for amalgamation guidance

Esquimalt council is trying to get some clarity on whether or not citizens actually favour amalgamation within the capital region.

Esquimalt council is trying to get some clarity on whether or not citizens actually favour amalgamation within the capital region.

According to Mayor Barb Desjardins, the question of what the township’s residents actually intended when they answered the two questions of the 2014 non-binding resolution has dogged Esquimalt’s council since the vote.

The confusion, said Desjardins, arose from the fact that while 70 per cent of respondents to the original referendum stated they were in favour of pursuing an increase in the shared service opportunities with other municipalities, only 50 per cent actually stated that they were in favor of a reduction in the number of municipalities.

Now those residents have been given the opportunity to make their true opinions heard.

“We had a bit of a mixed message coming out of the referendum ” said Desjardins, adding she had already heard some feedback that the 2014 vote was influenced by the sewage issue and a general backlash against the Capital Regional District.

“We wanted to give people the opportunity to tell us what they really wanted.”

At a public presentation to council recently, several people indicated they were unsure of what the questions on the 2014 ballot actually meant and voted without truly understanding the issue or the options available to the township.

Some residents stated they would now change their vote regarding fewer municipalities.

Desjardins intends to draft a letter to the province in which she will express the township’s support and willingness to participate in the provincial review process of the amalgamation question, but indicating a strong preference of her constituents for increased efficiencies and more effective shared services as opposed to a reduction in the number of municipalities.

The CRD has also requested a seat at the table when the province’s review is launched.

In preparation for that participation, they have invited Douglas Bish of the Fraser Institute to appear at the CRD to talk about his report regarding amalgamation.

The report appears to mirror the position expressed by Esquimalt residents, calling for improved governance at a regional level and more effective shared services.