Amalgamation Yes, a grassroots movement of residents who seek amalgamation within the Greater Victoria community, requested that each candidate running for mayor and council across the region respond to this survey. Here are my responses to their eight questions. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please feel free to leave a comment!
- Q1 Are you in favour of the principle of reducing the number of municipalities in the Capital Region through amalgamation? Yes or no. Please explain.
- A1 Yes. From what I understand, people’s greatest fear with regard to amalgamation is a loss of community identity and a surrendering of control of key community issues to a body ‘somewhere out there’ that won’t understand the needs of each locale and its residents. The greatest desire from proponents of amalgamation is more effective regional governance. Any goal/form of amalgamation that I would support would need to address both the fear and the desire. In other words, any solution that I would support would need to see retained community control of key community issues as part of the key to better regional governance.
- Q2 Do you believe that residents should have the opportunity to state an opinion on the subject of amalgamation through a non-binding referendum question on the municipal ballot? Yes or no. Please explain.
- A2 Yes. Given the Amalgamation Yes poll results released in late July, it is imperative for residents of all municipalities to be asked whether they favour reducing the number of municipalities through amalgamation. And it is imperative that those elected on November 15th take the results seriously.
- Q3 If elected in your municipality, would you support the initiation of studies to determine the feasibility, costs and possible benefits of amalgamation? Yes or no. Please explain.
- A3 Yes. And, I think it is key to work with closely with the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development on this file. To make something happen with regard to amalgamation will need to be a collaborative effort between the municipalities and the provincial government.
- Q4 One suggested model for restructuring the region consists of three municipalities:
Peninsula (Sidney, North Saanich, Central Saanich)
Core (Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, View Royal)
Westshore (Colwood, Langford, Metchosin, Highlands, Sooke).
In your view, does this proposed structure have merit? Yes or no. Do you propose a different model? Please explain.
- A4 I do not support the formation of one megacity. I would include Saanich with the peninsula (though I would want to hear from residents of Saanich in this regard. And also what studies would recommend). Saanich does have certain areas that are very urban but also parts that are very rural. When I think, “urban core” I think Oak Bay, Victoria and Esquimalt. A key role of municipal governments is to govern land use. From a planning perspective, and in particular from a preservation of natural places, farmland, etc it makes more sense to me that Saanich is part of the peninsula rather than the urban core.
- Q5 Do you agree that the merging of critical services such as policing, fire fighting and 9-1-1 emergency response would provide more effective and efficient public safety for the residents of Greater Victoria? Yes or no. Please explain.
- A5 Yes. But I think these are the most difficult services to merge because they are so politicized. I will work with with partner municipalities, the Provincial government and the fire and police departments in order to move towards regionalization of these services. At the same time, in order to move towards merging emergency services, I would start by ‘merging’ more simple things like payroll and IT. Every municipality needs to pay its employees every two weeks. And each municipality needs IT services. I would start by proposing a shared service delivery model between Oak Bay, Esquimalt and Victoria for payroll, banking and IT. I would do a business case to examine the cost-benefit before proceeding. And then, working in collaboration with mayors from Oak Bay and Esquimalt, and with senior staff from each municipality, I would implement this shared service delivery for payroll, banking and IT, as a four-year pilot program to be reviewed each year for cost savings and efficiency in service delivery. Each year the shared service model would be refined slightly to fix what’s not working and to enhance what is. At the end of four years, I would see if the lessons learned from this shared services model, and the relationships that have been built through service delivery, could be applied to emergency services. The key to the success of shared service delivery of any sort is: a real look at the costs and the benefits, genuine collaboration, a continuous learning environment, and a commitment to continuous improvement.
- Q6 In your view, what are the biggest obstacles to restructuring the 13 municipalities into fewer governance units?
- A6 An existing lack of collaboration between municipalities outside the dysfunctional body of the CRD. See below.
- Q7 Do you believe that the Capital Region District Board has been effective in dealing with regional service issues, such as waste water treatment (sewage), composting kitchen waste, regional growth, transportation and transit planning, etc. Yes or no. Please explain.
A7 No. As a Victoria City Councillor, I was not on the CRD board. But I did go as an alternate on a number of occasions. My take is that in many instances people are there for their municipalities first and the region second. The result is that sometimes people make decisions based on the needs of their municipalities first without always seeing the larger regional context in which we are situated. The governance structure lends itself to this. I have sat as a member of the Water Commission, and I think the Commission model, where representatives are tasked with a specific responsibility, could be a good way to overhaul/replace the CRD.
A series of Regional Commissions could make regional governance more effective, more collaborative, and ensure better, more cost effective service delivery and responsiveness to the needs and desires of residents. I would like to see a study that considers overhauling regional governance and examines the creation of a series of regional commissions:
- Liquid and Solid Waste/Resource Recovery Commission
- Transportation Commission (including Transit)
- Planning Commission
- Parks Commission
The governance structure, staffing and reporting relationships of each of the committees would need to be determined. These Commissions would be critically important in a restructured region of three municipalities, as outlined in question four.
- Q8 What would you do to improve regional governance in Greater Victoria?
- A8 In collaboration with mayors from across the region, I would create the Metro Victoria Mayors Caucus where the mayors of the region’s municipalities meet regularly and work together outside the formal political structure of the CRD. In 1993 the Mayor’s of Metropolitan Denver created a regional mayor’s caucus, initially in response to regional transportation issues. As their website notes, “Nationally recognized for its ability to unite around difficult issues, the Caucus uses the consensus model for its decision making and adheres to the principle that each jurisdiction, regardless of its population, has an equally valid voice.”In addition to working on regional issues like economic development, transportation, affordable housing, and sustainable growth and prosperity, the Metro Victoria Mayor’s Caucus would begin to develop, brand and promote “Metro Victoria” to the world. Amalgamation may happen one day, and, as noted above, I would support some form of it. But in the meantime, closer collaboration between mayors is key.