Saanich council will meet with Victoria council next month to discuss the direction of steps that could lead to amalgamation.
The meeting scheduled for June 26 will specifically consider the wording of a question designed to measure public support for future amalgamation talks — not amalgamation itself — between the two municipalities.
Issues likely to loom large in the meeting include the perceived clarity of the question.
One obvious source of guidance would be the process that has so far guided the proposed amalgamation of Duncan and North Cowichan. It started with residents in both communities answering following question during the 2014 municipal election.
“Are you in favour of spending time and resources to study the costs and benefits of the amalgamation of the municipalities of North Cowchian and the City of Duncan?”
Should voters in Saanich and Victoria answer a comparable question in the affirmative, a likely outcome would be the creation of a citizens’ assembly on amalgamation that would then study the issue.
A citizens’ assembly is a deliberative forum, which the provincial government defines as an “independent assembly of randomly selected individuals with a mandate to examine an issue over an extended period of time and make a recommendation to the Legislative Assembly.”
Megan Catalano, a spokesperson for the District of Saanich, said no draft wording exists yet.
“There is no further information on language other than what has been discussed as proposed or potential wording by the individual [councils] in supporting and directing the joint meeting.”
The origin of the meeting next month dates back to late April when Mayor Richard Atwell had recommended a joint meeting with Victoria to “determine which question both local governments” would place on the Oct. 20, 2018 municipal election ballot to measure support to “explore the costs and benefits” of amalgamation.
Demands for public consultation prior to any amalgamation talks date back to early April when Coun. Colin Plant first floated the idea of a referendum testing public support. They became more formal after Atwell and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps had met with officials from the ministry of municipal affairs and housing. They had told both Atwell and Helps that any future amalgamation talks would have to involve the public from the start.
“The province made it clear that there has to be a mandate from the citizens from beginning to end,” said Atwell in April. Council subsequently endorsed the upcoming meeting, which will take in the boardroom of the Capital Regional District (CRD). It is currently scheduled for four hours.