Community minister arranging talks on Victoria-area amalgamation

Mayors and councils from around the region will be meeting separately with Community Minister Coralee Oakes to talk about regional governance.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins have dates with the minister this week, while other mayors, who also received invitations, are working to set up meetings.

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“I think it’s a wonderful thing that the minister is seeking mayor and council’s thoughts on this,” Desjardins said, adding: “It’s a sign that the province is listening to us, and I think that’s a great thing when you can provide input.”

Helps has said she is looking forward to her meeting and would like to see a regional-governance study started.

Desjardins said Oakes outlined what she wanted to do in a letter to Esquimalt council.

“I feel it is important to hear from all local governments on this matter, so I can better understand how to support a conversation on governance and service integration in the capital area,” Oakes said in her letter.

Desjardins expects some council members to be at the meeting. “There was a lot of enthusiasm to be able to attend it.”

A statement from Oakes’s ministry said only that it was in the process of reaching out to local government and details are being finalized.

Both Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton and Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen will be away when their meetings are scheduled and are hoping to make other arrangements. Jensen said he has suggested holding Oak Bay’s meeting during the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in September when council members will also be available.

“The message out there was that there was an interest,” Hamilton said. “And the province has said if there was an interest, we will engage, so this could be the beginning of more formal discussions.”

Last November’s municipal elections saw eight of 13 municipalities in the capital region put amalgamation-related questions on ballots. The questions varied, but the results showed that a majority of voters favoured either a move toward amalgamation or a study of the issue.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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