Complications abound with amalgamation

Amalgamation is a vicious and terrifying word in the Capital, whispered only in dark corners of municipal halls — feared, loved and hated in a thousand new ways with each new day.

Amalgamation is a vicious and terrifying word in the Capital, whispered only in dark corners of municipal halls — feared, loved and hated in a thousand new ways with each new day. With Esquimalt’s recent Force Divorce following years of budget tensions, debates about regional funding, and regionalization of the CRD’s land use structure, it seems that somebody’s been feeding that elephant in the corner.

Contrary to popular belief, inter-municipal cooperation — far from being an unworkable mess of chattering politicians — has been improving steadily for years. Regional fire, disaster and ambulance services are well established, and municipal governments are even relinquishing some of their power to the CRD in favour of regional transportation plans and growth strategies.

On the flip side, the brief and torrid police force affair between Victoria and Esquimalt was characterized by regular budget conflicts, uncertainty and ultimate failure. There have been repeated (and largely ignored) calls for regional cost-sharing from Victoria, citing the higher costs of running the region’s downtown and rebuilding everyone’s favourite bridge.

In short, complications abound.

According to Victoria councillor Chris Coleman, fewer municipalities can work. “I think you get a much more cohesive plan for economic development,” says Coleman. Along with transportation and development planning, he argues amalgamation would be better for the region’s cultural health. “We tend to send a lot of our cultural and non-profit community around to 13 different councils, where they might get $5,000 here, a few thousand there — how much are these groups spending to do that?”

Saanich councillor Dean Murdock sees regional cooperation as an alternative to amalgamation. “[With more municipalities] you get a council with focus and familiarity with particular neighbourhoods, and a relationship with the neighbourhood associations rather than having representatives from all over the Capital Region voting on an issue specific to a local neighbourhood where they may not have that familiarity. I think that if you concentrate that responsibility you create a distance between the residents and their representatives.”

Personally, I’ve always had trouble ignoring the late great Jane Jacobs — “Respect for difference in neighbourhoods is essential. Megacity bureaucracies cannot respond with this kind of pinpoint accuracy. It defies common sense to inflict on the citizens and businesses a government that is less responsive than what they have now.” Complications indeed. M

Just Posted

Emerging Sooke filmmaker takes spotlight with special award

Mary Galloway creates her own opportunities

Government House gala a great time to announce new Langham Court season

Production chair Alan Penty unveils 90-year-old theatre company’s plans for the coming year

Wild about nature photos: Royal B.C. Museum set to kick off annual exhibition

Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition winners, finalists’ works on display starting Friday

REVIEW: Allan Reid finds a meal fit for a king

Monday’s intrepid restaurant reviewer gets the royal treatment at the Fireside Grill

FILM FEST WRAP: Your winners, reviewer’s favourites make for differing lists

Kyle Wells takes a look back on the Victoria Film Festival’s 25th anniversary event

Seedy Saturday blossoms at Victoria Conference Centre this weekend

Speakers cover wide range of topics, including how to utilize small spaces for gardening

Port Alberni production tells real stories of casual racism

Divided We Fall coming to ADSS and the Capitol Theatre

Women dominated in Grammys nominations, but will they win?

This year’s nominees mark a departure from the 2018 Grammys

Most Read