Amalgamation is necessity

A lot of people don’t like the word, but ... amalgamation of Greater Victoria is becoming a necessity.

A lot of people don’t like the word, but as costs continue to rise and household income continues to be spoken for before it’s even earned, amalgamation of Greater Victoria is becoming a necessity.

At a recent community meeting held in James Bay, Chief Const. Jamie Graham was on hand to drum up support for a single regional police force.

Regardless of how you may feel about the scandal-plagued chief himself, one can’t argue about the difficulties in running a 245-member department in a protest-happy provincial capital.

As Graham points out, the downtown population can swell to 250,000 during large events, and the roughly 400 protests that take place at the legislature and elsewhere in Victoria fall directly on VicPD shoulders. This, he added, results in the highest case load per officer in Canada.

But more importantly to the taxpayers who live in this city, it means that we have to carry the burden for policing every protest — regardless of where the protestors come from. The same is true of the nightclub scene. It’s VicPd’s responsibility to keep the peace when the late-night revellers hit the streets after the bars close — regardless of which municipality the partiers call home.

Now this is nothing new, and Victoria taxpayers have grumbled but paid their annual property taxes without much fuss. But, year after year, the bill keeps going up and it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t feel that too large a share of their tax dollars is going to administration rather than into capital projects and infrastructure that both enhance and future-proof our city.

The Johnson Street Bridge is a classic example. Avoid maintenance long enough and eventually you’re going to have to replace the whole damn thing.

At that same community meeting, John Vickers of Amalgamation Victoria raised a few eyebrows when he talked about the lessons gleaned from Halifax’s amalgamation in the mid-1990s.

“Halifax is a provincial capital with 390,000 people. They now have one mayor with 16 councillors,” Vickers said. In Greater Victoria, “we have 91 mayors and councillors representing our population of 360,000, and three school districts with 24 trustees.”

In case you don’t have your calculators handy, that’s a reduction in expenditures of 74 elected officials at the municipal level. Now add up the savings in amalgamated resources from street cleaning to accounting, not to mention elections, etc., and you start to see how amalgamation makes sense.

The bottom line is that the system as it stands now can’t keep raising taxes to pay the bills, because taxpayers simply don’t have any more to give. M