Saanich and Victoria explore amalgamation
The mayors of Saanich and Victoria are encouraging citizens to get educated about amalgamation as the two municipalities explore the idea.
Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps are crafting a brief joint report for their respective councils after meeting with Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing representatives last week. The mayors requested a meeting to discuss the establishment and funding of a citizen’s assembly on amalgamation and were told by the province what next steps they could take.
“We’ll brief each of our councils in public on the meeting we had and ask them what next steps we want to take together,” Helps said.
Discussions about amalgamation have involved various configurations of municipalities in the capital region, but Helps said both councils have asked for a process involving Victoria and Saanich. Sometimes, the first steps are the most important steps, Atwell said on Friday.
“In the 100 years of talking about amalgamation, there hasn’t been much that’s been an official step other than the referendums held back in the ’50s and ’60s,” he said. “So, this is an opportunity for this generation . . . to play a role, and until there is an official role to play and an official process to participate in, I encourage residents to involve themselves in community discussions ongoing right now.”
Helps said the municipalities will take clear steps in the next few months “and potentially in the next election, in terms of another question on the ballot — very specific but not binding. But we’ll let our councils give us direction because it has to be led by the councils.”
Atwell concurred: “If we achieve asking a referendum question on the next municipal ballot, we need to have the same question — the councils have to be in synch, the public needs to be in synch, the staff need to be in synch.”