Council discusses A-word

It's a topic residents and politicians of Greater Victoria have been talking about for decades — should the 13 municipalities amalgamate?

It’s a topic residents and politicians of Greater Victoria have been talking about for decades — should the region’s 13 municipalities amalgamate?

Now two firms headed by the B.C. government have begun spearheading discussions not on amalgamation, but integrating municipal services and governance in Greater Victoria.

Dubbed the Capital Integrated Services and Governance initiative, the province has spent more than $90,000 for Urban Systems and Circle Square Solutions to consult with the 13 municipal governments in the capital region on “exploring ways to integrate services and governance.”

The team is currently in the first round of discussions and appeared before members of Victoria council on Thursday to introduce their work and listen to perspectives.

Several councillors were quick to throw out the amalgamation word and express their views on the topic. Mayor Lisa Helps asked if amalgamation is completely off the table, if consultants hear from some municipalities that it is desirable.

“I would like some look at not just the cost effective delivery of some services, integration, but what could it look like to have fewer municipalities in the capital region? I think it’s something we have to consider otherwise people are going to say this never got looked at and the question will still go on,” said Helps.

“Everyone’s an expert on amalgamation…but the fact is, we don’t have that expertise in the public realm and I think we need a serious look at that.”

Coun. Jeremy Loveday called amalgamation the “ghost” in the discussion, noting it’s still being treated as if it’s a bad word politicians should avoid talking about.

Coun. Ben Isitt isn’t a supporter of amalgamation, pointing to other communities in Canada where it did not work. There’s no perfect solution, he noted, but the glaring services that cry for integration in the region are police, fire and transportation.

Isitt said he would like to see a single police department for the Capital Regional District that would extend from the top of Galiano Island to Victoria and Oak Bay, out to the Juan de Fuca electoral area and up to the Malahat. Currently the region has seven police departments and each municipality has their own fire department.

“From a standpoint of public safety, but also cost savings, that kind of integrated approach is long overdue,” he said.

“I think we should actively be having those discussions about creating a new service under the authority of the CRD where all police services in the region would be integrated into a new regional police service.”

Greater Victoria has a population of approximately 335,000 people and the region is governed by 91 councillors and mayors. During the municipal election in 2014, Victoria, Esquimalt and six other municipalities had questions on the ballot about reducing the number of municipalities through amalgamation.

In Victoria and Esquimalt, the referendums passed with overwhelming support. Region-wide, about 75 per cent of people voted in favour, but the municipalities were scattered with their questioning. Only Victoria and Langford asked citizens directly if they were interested in amalgamating. In Esquimalt, residents were asked if they were interested in having a study done on amalgamation and looking at options for better service alignment.

The latest initiative is an understanding reached between the region’s municipalities and the province in March. A report will be prepared on how services are currently delivered in the capital region, best practices from other local governments, and the challenges and opportunities associated with various approaches to governance and service integration.

A second round of dialogue with councils will take place in the fall. The province maintains it will not impose an outcome.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A sewage pipe is pulled along Niagara Street in James Bay in 2018 as part of the Capital Regional District’s wastewater treatment plant project. Over the next 10 years, the city will complete 78 new underground infrastructure projects, upgrading sewage, stormwater and water main pipes. (Black Press Media file photo)
Construction begins on Victoria’s 10-year pipe replacement project

78 underground infrastructure projects will cost $53.8 million

Father Marinaldo Batista, who served at Catholic parishes in Saanich and Sooke, died April 1 in Brazil from complications of COVID-19. (Facebook/St. Elizabeth Church)
Brazilian priest who served in Saanich and Sooke dies from COVID-19

Father Marinaldo Batista, 53, went to Brazil to visit his parents and died there April 1

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Lawsuit filed last summer accused Barney Williams of verbal abuse

A photograph of the real firearm beside the replica firearm seized by VicPD in the early hours of April 18. (Courtesy VicPD)
Police seize loaded firearm, drugs during traffic stop in Victoria

Officers find cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl along with loaded handgun

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

..
Abbotsford nurse at ‘breaking point’ pleads with public to take COVID-19 seriously

Instagram post urges general population to stay home, wear a mask and get vaccinated

Alex Mah of Chemainus spends a sunny day at Kin Beach reading to daughter Beatrice Mah. 3. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Vancouver Island’s mini-summer poised to fade

Cooler and damper this weekend, summer-like conditions not likely to return until late June

Nanaimo Fire Rescue investigator Mark Jonah probes the scene of a blaze that destroyed two apartments on Sunday, April 18. The cause of the blaze has not been determined. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Arson suspect arrested after apartment fire in Nanaimo

35-year-old man arrested for allegedly starting fire lived in the complex

A wildfire has started near Gold River, and B.C. Wildfire Service crews are on scene. Photo courtesy Coastal Fire Centre
Small wildfire burning in difficult terrain near Gold River

Coastal Fire Centre investigating, but confirms blaze is human-caused

FILE – Health-care workers wave to people clapping and yelling thank you to the frontline workers during the 7 p.m.-tribute outside the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. nurses issue plea for all to follow health orders as hospitalizations spike

Nurses worried about strain COVID-19 is having on hospital capacity, care

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark. (Black Press Media files)
Former B.C. premier to testify at money laundering hearing today

Attorney General David Eby has been added to the witness list as well

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. to table budget that’s expected to deal with COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Robinson released a fiscal update last December that said the impact of the pandemic on B.C.’s economy was uncertain

Most Read