Victoria and Esquimalt mayors have taken a step closer to the possibility of amalgamating municipalities in Greater Victoria last week.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins met with Coralee Oakes, the minister of community, sport and cultural development, to discuss the idea of amalgamating the municipalities of Victoria, Esquimalt, Oak Bay and Saanich Tuesday.
“It was a dialogue, it was awesome. We passed ideas back and forth,” said Helps.
“Ditch the word amalgamation and let’s talk about a regional governance review because if we’re talking just about amalgamation, we’re talking about the municipalities, we’re not looking at the [Capital Regional District].”
Helps stressed the idea of a regional governance review that needs to be done in collaboration with all 13 municipalities. She hopes the study will look at water, parks, transit, resource recovery, waste collection, fire and police and how to best integrate those services.
“I don’t just want to know if it’s going to cost more or less if Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay and Esquimalt amalgamate. Simple data like that, that’s not going to really help us make a decision,” said Helps, noting that the Greater Victoria Public Library board is a good example of a regional board that works.
“Cost is only one factor. I’m interested in quality of life and well-being and how we can best organize governance in the region to support those things.”
Desjardins said it was a “positive meeting” with the minister, but hopes to have further discussions with residents about the issue.
“We wanted to hear from our residents before we’re able to give true input as to what it is our residents were thinking when they’re looking at a study to be done,” said Desjardins. “We want to make sure when we do a governance study, what is it that you’re looking for to be studied and when you’re talking about shared services, what services are you talking about?”
Desjardins admitted this was not a top priority for the township with economic development, village projects and the sewage issue at the top of the list.
“Until something can come off our plate, this is not the top priority for council,” she added.
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.