City on board to dissolve development agency

Victoria has been added to the list of municipalities on board with a proposal to dissolve the Greater Victoria Development Agency.

The City of Victoria has been added to the list of municipalities on board with a proposal to dissolve the Greater Victoria Development Agency in favour of new regional organization for economic development.

During last Thursday’s governance and priorities meeting, council voted unanimously in favour of the proposed South Vancouver Island Economic Development Association.

The five-year pilot project would encompass all 13 municipalities in Greater Victoria and focus on strengthening and diversifying the economy in the region, including all businesses south of the Malahat on the Island.

“This is a very exciting historical moment. This is something that is long overdue,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “I think this will be, in terms of regional economic development, the most important decision of this generation that will set the groundwork for a sustainable and prosperous next generation in our region and that’s thrilling to me.”

The new model would be based on one in Halifax and would include several levels of governance. The funding partners council will include are mayors and members of the private and post-secondary sectors, who will set the direction of the organization, establish a five-year plan and choose the board of directors. Each municipality involved will have one vote.

First Nations chiefs will also have a body that advises funding partners council, board of directors and committees.

After a similar model was implemented in Halifax, the city went to first place from 16th in GPD growth and reduced employment to 5.9 per cent from 11.

Victoria has dropped from fourth in 2008 to 27th in 2013 in GPD growth compared to Canada’s other large city-regions, according to a report brought to council.

“Everybody wins when our economy grows, it’s about creating meaningful house-hold sustaining jobs,”said Greater Victoria Development Agency chairman Dan Dagg. “If we continue with this approach that we’re doing now, we’re fragmented and we’re not getting our fair share of federal and provincial funding.”

View Royal and Langford have already agreed to jump on board and the motion will be put forward to the rest of the region’s municipalities in the next three weeks.

Helps anticipates they’re going to get most, if not all municipalities on board. They need seven of 13 to make it fly.

In Esquimalt, the motion will be put forward at the Dec. 7 meeting, but Mayor Barb Desjardins said there has been a lot of excitement from some councillors already.

“We all need to work together for the greater good of this region and this is one way we could,” she said. “Every time we stray anywhere in the region, we have an impact on the economy of that section of the region. We may as well all work together particularly with these larger initiatives.”

They hope to have the organization up and running by April 1, 2016.