Colwood residents to be asked about amalgamation on next municipal ballot

Colwood residents will get to weigh in on the question of amalgamation during the next municipal election, but just what they’ll be asked will be up to them.

Colwood councillors on Monday endorsed putting a question on the 2014 municipal ballot asking residents whether they’d like their city to participate in the process of amalgamation or integration of services should the opportunity present itself.

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Coun. Shari Lukens, sponsor of the initiative, says it would be premature to suggest at this point what question will be asked.

Her objective is to first have a conversation with residents exploring the merits of working better together.

“When people say let’s talk about amalgamation, I can’t even have the discussion because I have no information,” Lukens said prior to Monday’s council meeting. “So my objective is to have a question put on the ballot in 2014.”

Councillors also supported creating a task force and making $3,000 available for public engagement.

Two councillors, Gordie Logan and Cynthia Day, voted against the move. Day said she supports the idea of consultation, but added: “I have a very hard time once the amalgamation word is brought into the picture.”

Logan echoed Day’s concerns. “The one thing about this particular motion that gives me some angst is the amalgamation word,” he said.

“I do believe in working better together and I think Colwood as a community has actually been one of the leaders in the CRD in being able to work and integrate various services with other municipalities.”

Coun. Rob Martin said the proposal isn’t about amalgamation, but engaging the public.

“The fact of the matter is there is a large interest in the community to discuss it. You can be on either side of it, but I think it is unfair if we do not give the public the opportunity to discuss it.”

Lukens acknowledged that Colwood is the first of 13 municipalities out of the gate in agreeing to put a question on the ballot, but said information-gathering is key before the question is determined.

The push toward some sort of amalgamation of the capital region’s 13 municipalities has been picking up steam of late.

A non-profit group calling itself Amalgamation Yes has been created with the goal of putting a non-binding question on municipal amalgamation on every municipal ballot in the fall of 2014.

The question it wants asked in each of the 13 municipalities is: “Are you in favour of reducing the number of municipalities in the CRD through amalgamation?”

Lukens said it would be preferable to have the same question asked in each municipality, and thinks it was premature of Amalgamation Yes to put forward a question at this point.

“I’m not supportive of the question Amalgamation Yes has put out there because I think it’s misleading,” she said.

“Why do we have to use amalgamation? Why can’t we use integration?”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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