Tim Morrison held up a blank sheet of paper to the crowd of 300 at the township’s all-candidates meeting Wednesday night.
“That’s exactly what we know about the future of policing for Esquimalt,” he said, zeroing in on the Township’s refusal to release its reasons for choosing the RCMP over the Victoria Police Department.
The municipality has said it cannot release a police report it submitted to the province in June due to confidentiality clauses.
Josh Steffler was outraged Esquimalt residents did not have a say in the selection process. “Seven people chose out of 17,000. How is that representative?” he said, adding that a referendum should have been held on the issue.
Regardless of the township’s choice, many candidates touted the advantages of regionalized policing.
“Esquimalt and Victoria are fighting for dollars for these services, when they should be spread out throughout all of the four major municipalities (Esquimalt, Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay),” said Bob McKie.
Incumbent Lynda Hundleby said an amalgamated service interests her, though she noted other municipalities have not said they would share those costs, nor has the province initiated change.
The lone voice calling for Esquimalt to operate its own police department, and keep it open 24-7, belonged to Sandra Dixon.
Many candidates said consolidation of select services, such as policing, would serve Esquimalt best, rather than outright regional amalgamation.
Sewage treatment is a prime example of how municipalities have little say on regional projects through the Capital Regional District governance model, said incumbent Meagan Brame.
“Would our streets, parks, homes get the attention our residents want and need?” she said. “How would it affect the great services that we have in our community? Would it spread them too thin?”
“I do hear it’s not all about the ‘a’ word, it’s not all about amalgamation,” said Dave Hodgins, adding that integration of services could reduce redundancies, increase other service levels and save money.
Consolidation would work in other areas such as standardized building codes and garbage pickup, said David Schinbein, who gained previous experience with municipal amalgamation when he was an Ontario councillor.
“The key I think is that it’s done in an economic way,” he said.
Candidates’ answers to questions will be posted at esquimaltchamber.ca.