Amalgamation doesn’t appear to be on the minds of many politicians outside Victoria.
So far, only Victoria has committed to including a non-binding question – asking residents if they are in favour of reducing the number of municipalities in the region – at polls this November.
“The biggest issue I see from politicians is, ‘My phone didn’t ring this week, so why is this an issue?’ And that’s part of the problem,” said John Vickers, spokesperson for Amalagamation Yes, a citizens lobby group. “Generally, people say this is a no-brainer. It’s just trying to transpose that into the eyes of some of the politicians.”
A ‘yes’ vote would trigger provincially funded studies to determine the feasibility, benefits and costs of various models of integration, and would not trigger amalgamation.
So far, North Saanich, Central Saanich and Oak Bay have chosen not to include an amalgamation question.
Colwood committed to the idea last July, but that motion could be scrapped if public interest isn’t there, said Mayor Carol Hamilton.
“We’re cautious about budget implications … but we want to ensure that if this is the direction the general populous wants to start taking things, then how do we get there,” Hamilton said.
A callout to Colwood residents interested in taking part in forming an amalgamation ballot question came back with fewer than five responses, she added.
Those sentiments seem to be permeating from most West Shore municipalities.
Langford Coun. Lanny Seaton said he hasn’t heard from residents that amalgamation is a “burning issue” so far.
“I can’t speak for the rest of council, but I don’t think anybody’s even considered it,” Seaton said. “Why would we vote to look at paying more taxes?”
Metchosin Mayor John Ranns said a lack of public interest means the district likely won’t ask residents to weigh in on the issue.
“I do believe that amalgamation done right can have positive benefits,” Ranns said. “But amalgamation done wrong is going to be far worse than what we have now.”
View Royal and Esquimalt are debating whether to include a question, while Capital Regional District directors voted not to ask member municipalities to include the non-binding question next fall.
Despite the setbacks, Amalgamation Yes organizers remain optimistic.
“It’s all in flux,” Vickers said. “We’re well over 20 per cent of the region’s population (if Colwood moves ahead with a question). If we can just get three or four more municipalities, that hopefully will give us momentum.”
-with files from Kyle Wells