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

UnoFest: Pushing boundaries and challenging audiences for 22 years

Annual solo theatre festival kicks off 11 days of inspiring artistry on May 1

Royal BC Museum set to launch its latest exhibition coup

Victoria institution’s new show on the Maya makes its North American debut May 17

VOS transforms the McPherson into a swamp for Shrek The Musical

Victoria Operatic Society’s musical theatre production appeals to all ages

Elegant waterfront gala to launch new Ballet Victoria season

Tickets still available for Spring Soiree on April 26: meet the dancers, bid on great auction items

Just looking, or buying? You can find that perfect art piece at Sidney show

Saanich Peninsula Arts and Crafts Society holding Spring Show April 27-28 at Mary Winspear Centre

Peninsula grandmothers salute Roaring ’20s fashion

May 3 event in Sidney benefits Grandmothers Helping African Grandmothers

Belmont secondary’s student-run bistro experiences opening-day rush

Culinary students serving up affordable lunches to fellow classmates

Sooke Community Choir offers up #modernlove

Sooke concerts run from May 3 to 5

Celebration of Light fireworks to feature two new countries

India and Croatia will compete for the first time, alongside Canada

Stephen Fearing brings unique style to concert series

Fearing will play Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Sooke on April 27

Sidney Classical Orchestra hosts former dean of Victoria Conservatory

Canadian pianist Jamie Syer to play pieces by Beethoven, Haydn at Saturday concert in Sidney

REVIEW: Symphony, Jeans ‘n Classic perform jolly good Queen show

Strengthened by UVic Vocal Jazz Ensemble, the group performs tonight and Sunday at the Royal

Most Read