First steps on amalgamation study; Esquimalt prefers integration

The province has put out a call for a consultant to help examine integration of municipal services in Greater Victoria.

“The proposed initiative will help facilitate fact-finding and discussion among local governments in the capital region to inform opportunities towards the efficient delivery of service that citizens need,” says the request for proposals.

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“The initiative will provide the opportunity for differing perspectives to be heard and may well lay the groundwork for more specific solutions local governments may wish to pursue towards greater integration of services and governance.”

The consultant is expected to:

• Guide discussion within and among local governments and with stakeholders to help them identify issues, barriers, and opportunities involving service and governance integration.

• Provide examples from other jurisdictions and other public bodies, which achieved service efficiencies.

A final report is expected by Oct. 26.

In the 2014 municipal elections, eight of the region’s 13 municipalities put amalgamation-related questions on ballots. In the end, 75 per cent of voters were in favour of examining some kind of amalgamation. Different questions were asked in different municipalities. In the end, only Oak Bay flat out rejected the idea.

B.C. Community Minister Peter Fassbender has said the province won’t impose amalgamation in Greater Victoria but would facilitate meetings to explore options for governance changes.

Meanwhile, Esquimalt councillors decided this week that integration of services is a better option than amalgamation.

Esquimalt hosted a meeting last week to get a better read from the community about what approach to take.

Coun. Tim Morrison told his colleagues that the clear message was that residents wanted efficiency.

“We had a few people who wanted amalgamation. We had a few people that wanted nothing to do with amalgamation. But the one common goal they all had and they all agreed to was that we need to be more efficient with how we share our services,” said Morrison at a special council meeting Monday.

“If it can be proven through a provincial government-sponsored study that it would be much more to the benefit of all of us in the region to have one fire department or one police force or what have you, then that’s what we should be doing,” Morrison said.

“Resources are really important to all of us, both the province, ourselves and our neighbours. It is very important if we are going to be involved in any way we have our resources focused on something that is meaningful, in a sense that it really could potentially happen.”

Several Esquimalt councillors made reference to a recently completed study for the Fraser Institute by University of Victoria professor emeritus Robert Bish that concluded amalgamation in Greater Victoria would not necessarily be cheaper nor would it provide better representation than the existing 13 municipalities.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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