As I’ve said in the past, amalgamation is a vicious and deeply terrifying word here in the capital. Our particular brand of municipal xenophobia has gifted us with strained conversations about regional cooperation on infrastructure projects, an ever-more legally convoluted CRD, and for the past eight years an increasingly tense debate over the Victoria police, all of which happily ignores the A-word.
Despite our region’s irrational fear of amalgamation, it does come up from time to time. With the imminent demise of the Esquimalt-Victoria joint police force, now is one of those times. In a recent interview with Saanich News, Mayor Dean Fortin summed up what has become the favoured line of Victoria politicians on the subject of regional government: “We’ve all generally agreed that the best policing would be an integrated model, a model of regionalization, and we see [Esquimalt’s] decision as a step backwards.”
Unfortunately, Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins disagrees, saying the township’s decision to contract to the RCMP is in her community’s best interest. “I agree, crime knows no boundaries,” she told the Times Colonist recently. “The difficulty has been if regionalization is going to occur, it would have been done.”
Desjardins is only one in a chorus of politicians outside the municipality of Victoria who appear to have little or no desire for amalgamation. Since 2003, the painful partnership between Esquimalt and Victoria has illustrated exactly why this is the case. What was initially touted as the beginning of regional policing quickly became a constant political struggle over the operation of the VicPD; a struggle that Esquimalt now understandably wants to abandon.
Regardless of what side you’re on, the politics of regional government in the capital lead inevitably to the conclusion that the only way the municipalities of the CRD will be amalgamated is if the province drags them kicking and screaming. Unfortunately for proponents of that idea, pissing off all but nine of the capital’s 150 politicians probably isn’t on Christy Clark’s to-do list, which leaves us caught in the same old stalemate.
In the end, our region continues to grind its way toward a more coordinated method of service delivery. Even Esquimalt’s policing woes are less an argument against regionalization than a call for a more conscious approach to what, by necessity, is the future of the capital region. Just, don’t use that word. M