Three cities, seven districts, two towns, and a township make up what is known as Greater Victoria. Spanning from Sidney to North Saanich and all the way down to Sooke, the distance spans 63 kilometres. These are areas that the movement titled Amalgamation Yes suggests ought to be united. It’s an idea that’s been in the public consciousness since as early as the 1950s. This year, proponents are petitioning to have the following question placed on municipal election ballots in November: Are you in favour of reducing the number of municipalities in the Capital Regional District through amalgamation?
To those in favour of amalgamation, it would mean eliminating perceived inefficiencies that come along with having a baker’s dozen of districts in a relatively small area. There are 13 mayors, 76 councillors, and a total of 89 representatives in the Capital Regional District (CRD). The organizers of the Amalgamation Yes campaign believe that they could eliminate some redundancies involved with having so many government employees, which could save the CRD close to a million dollars per year, according to the campaign material. On the campaign website, the proponents talk about being “a grassroots people’s movement,” interested in “the most effective means of governing the region.” This also would entail organizing emergency services including fire departments and police stations to be better staffed and better placed to deal with emergencies. As stated on the Amalgamation Yes website, “Approximately one third of the municipalities in the CRD employ full-time firefighters, one third use a mix of employees and volunteers as firefighters, and one third use only volunteer firefighters.” However, no evidence has been presented suggesting the volunteer firefighters were not as effective as the full-time firefighters.
Some feel that amalgamation is not the answer, as it could take control away from smaller, local governments. Issues in Metchosin are generally not the same as those in Oak Bay, so there’s a chance that things could be overlooked. The mayor of Metchosin, John Ranns, was asked by Amalgamation Yes if he supported a form of amalgamation, and he said, “Amalgamation models must recognize low-population rural and agricultural areas—they won’t survive unless they are governed separately.” Wendal Milne, mayor of Sooke, said, “No, I don’t support Sooke amalgamating with other municipalities in the CRD. Sooke is distinct from the municipalities in the CRD because of the geographical separation between the populated areas.” On a similar note, Greater Victoria resident @eikonos tweeted: “@AmalgamationYes Two municipalities can’t agree about a shared service—13 would be a disaster.”
With so many cities around Canada amalgamating over the past 20 years, there is a certain pressure, and with every case there are supporters and detractors. The Amalgamation Yes group will have representatives at a forum to discuss this issue further, hosted by the Victoria Downtown Residents Association, at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 2, at the Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad St.