An Esquimalt councillor is hoping an upcoming public forum will give the public a fair chance to understand what amalgamating with 13 municipalities in the Greater Victoria area would truly mean.
“I believe the public hasn’t had fair and equitable access to opposing the view,” said Beth Burton-Krahn, one of the organizers of the Rethinking Amalgamation forum at Camosun College next week.
“The average person on the street will have a much better understanding of what amalgamation really means, what the research shows, what the stories are from other regions, but also more importantly a much better understanding of our current system.”
The issue of amalgamating the region’s 13 municipalities has been ongoing for a number of years. Greater Victoria has a population of approximately 335,000 people, and the region is governed by 91 councillors and mayors.
During last November’s municipal election, Victoria, Esquimalt and six other municipalities had questions on the ballot about reducing the number of municipalities in Greater Victoria through amalgamation.
In Victoria and Esquimalt, the referendums passed with overwhelming support. Region-wide, about 75 per cent of people voted in favour, but Burton-Krahn noted that 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. If there had been an opposing view on the ballot, Burton-Krahn believes the results could have been much different.
“Certainly on the street people would have their opinions, so they have done their reading or research, but there was never any kind of opposition movement. It was probably because the gist was that this was driving towards a study. It wasn’t a binding question,” said Burton-Krahn, who’s opposed to amalgamation.
“It’s because of the loss of representative democracy. Let’s talk service delivery, let’s get our focus on doing better regionally and inter municipally.”
The public forum takes place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17 at the Lansdowne Campus. Guest speakers include University of Victoria Professor Dr. Robert Bish and Johnny Carline, former chief administrative officer of Metro Vancouver.