Residents of Victoria and Saanich gave their municipalities strong mandates to pursue studies around amalgamation in a 2014 referendum ballot, reminds Shellie Gudgeon, Amalgamation Yes chair. Don Denton/News staff

The facts are clear to why amalgamation is needed in Greater Victoria

Shellie Gudgeon, chair of Amalgamation Yes, responds to News editorial

Re: Amalgamation is no silver bullet (Our View, April 20)

Your editorial poses questions that many residents of Greater Victoria could easily answer. There are many avoidable problems in the region that are/have been a direct result of the fragmented municipal structure.

To name just a few:

– $75 million wasted on sewage file at the Capital Regional District board caused by turf-protecting mayors;

– traffic gridlock and a lack of transportation authority due to a failure to work together and advocate in a holistic manner with other levels of government. The economic cost of this alone is staggering, not to mention the cost to the environment;

– multiple and often unco-ordinated public safety issues, leading to the inability to agree on matters as simple as fire dispatch;

– exclusion from the Big City Mayors’ Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, a body that advocates for the needs of Canada’s biggest cities.

And yet you ask, “does having more municipalities stand in the way of getting things done?” We wonder, too, how the estimated cost of “millions of dollars” and putting “hundreds out of work” was derived? Even the province says that information and data has yet to be collected and analyzed before the costs and benefits are known.

Duncan and North Cowichan have engaged in an exploration process to determine if amalgamation is right for them. That included a citizens’ assembly that made recommendations on amalgamation to each council. It will be up to people in those communities to vote Yes or No in a June 23 referendum. This is the way democracy is supposed to work. A mandate from the voters is absolutely essential for any change to municipal structure.

It is not for Amalgamation Yes to decide any future changes to our local government structure. It is for the citizens who live here to decide. We are consistent and persistent in that regard.

As it currently stands, residents in our region have been denied the ability to bring about local government changes when councils fail to provide, or ignore, a means for legitimate reform. Using a citizens’ assembly model allows participation from a randomly selected sample of interested residents.

Victoria and Saanich received strong mandates in their 2014 municipal election questions on amalgamation. Saanich followed up with a governance review group that recommended a citizens’ assembly, which was unanimously approved by council. It follows, then, that these two municipalities would seek to determine if amalgamation will be a good fit for them.

We should never fear information and always strive for improvements in local government. We believe that better is possible, as do thousands of others in the Capital Region. Victoria and Saanich are making a good start on this exploratory journey.

Shellie Gudgeon, Chair,

Amalgamation Yes

amalgamation

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