All but one of the municipalities in Greater Victoria with amalgamation questions on Saturday’s ballot voted in favour, including Victoria and Esquimalt. The provincial government has also taken interest.
“There is always value in dialogue about whether current governance structures are meeting local community needs,” said Community, Sports and Cultural Development Minister Coralee Oakes. “I remain committed to provide the support and resources required by the newly-elected local governments.”
Victoria Mayor-elect Lisa Helps said the next step is for the seven mayors whose municipalities voted in favour of some sort of amalgamation to sit down together and have a conversation, and to also meet with Minister Oakes. Helps said residents can expect this kind of action within the first few months of the term.
“We asked the question in order to get input, and now our job is to respond to that input and take action,” said Helps, adding she hopes the municipalities are able to work together on the issue.
“We want to make sure if we’re moving toward closer regional cooperation, we can do it in a cooperative manner,” said Helps. “I feel really optimistic about that given the folks that have been elected around the region.”
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said the next step will be starting a conversation with the community as well as other leaders in the region.
“What we’ve heard is clearly there needs to be more dialogue,” said Desjardins. “I think it’s important to have a better understanding of what options and what steps there could be going forward.”
She added any advancement could not happen without knowing what the rest of the region will do, and how they will do it.
“The difficulty is that we have some communities that asked a question, and some that didn’t,” said Desjardins. “We clearly have one community (Oak Bay) that has said no, and so in order for something to go forward, what will it take?”
Desjardins said she does not see any binding decisions being made anytime soon, because of all that is involved in decision-making and planning.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, and much more education and understanding of what amalgamation could look like, because everybody I talked to certainly had different ideas of what that meant.”
From Esquimalt’s two amalgamation questions, Desjardins said she does not think citizens are fully supportive of the township losing its identity.
“What I heard is the region needs to come together better, and how do we do that in terms of shared services, in terms of some changes in governance. I think there’s more support with some kind of study than there is jumping to any next step.”
Desjardins said it is unlikely that plans regarding amalgamation will take place at the council table before January, but discussion could start in December.