Monday, December 28, 2009

Recreation Passes for the Region

Recreation Passes for the Region

Recently eleven (11), not 13, municipalities have agreed to continue with a region wide recreation pass. This will allow someone to buy one pass usable in all our rec centres. Frank Leonard was quotes as saying that people look for opportunities and do not see a municipal border. Dean Fortin was noted as saying it recognizes that municipalities do work as a region.

It is hard to believe this took so long for the municipalities to realize that people do not see them as separate. It is sad that two municipalities are not involved. It is also clear that this issue had to take time from eleven different departments, to consider if they would participate, see if there was a benefit to them, decide how to share the revenue etc.

It may be considered that rec centres are a simple and identifiable service that, given this co-operation, do not reflect a need for amalgamation. However, rec centres are simply the easily observable service and the fact is that all the city services are similar in their scope. The need for amalgamation is reflected in the practicality of having a region wide pass.

We should all have a region wide pass for all municipal issues, to allow us to pay one tax, access one source of services and be managed by one set of politicians.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Letter to Editor in Times Colonist calls for Amalgamation

There is a Letter to the Editor today in the Times Colonist calling for amalgamation. It was written by Colin Nielson, who stated his support for amalgamation icluding:

The Blue Bridge is used by people from all over the Greater Victoria region. The city, with just over 24 per cent of the region's population, could be stuck with providing 100 per cent of the local contribution to costs.

This situation will never change unless the provincial government steps in and forces amalgamation upon, at the least, the core municipalities.


There needs to be a people's movement to push for a merging of the region's municipalities.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Former Saanich mayor calls for amalgamated policing

Mel Couvelier has an op-ed piece in the Times Colonist calling for amalgamated policing. As he puts it, "The need to seriously consider amalgamating municipal policing services is inching ever closer."

Mr. Couvelier is a former Saanich mayor and provincial finance minister. He ran for mayor of Sidney in the 2008 municipal elections.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More Issues on Traffic

Saanich Snarl worse than crawl, mayor says

With multiple municipalities, it seems necessary for Mayor’s to deflect critical terms from their area to others, hence the Colwood Mayor referring to the "Saanich Snarl" instead of the “Colwood Crawl”. This of course is an entire waste of dialoged, as the people know that the traffic slow down starts at least at the hospital and affects mainly those going to Colwood/Langford. Trying to change the name of the problem is plain silly.

This came to light while Colwood council, one of the 13 municipalities was considering the proposed Victoria Regional Rapid Transit Project route.

In that review they support, a rapid-transit line to Colwood Corners rather than down Wale Road to Langford. Now we will have to see what Langford says. They might be right of course. It may also be appropriate to consider these meetings as “community input” which is certainly required. Would it not be better though to have community input, but have the final decision placed upon one elected body for the region? Right now that will never happen.

On a related note, Colwood council does not seem to support Victoria's request to the CRD for gas-tax funds to offset the rail component cost of the Johnson Street Bridge replacement project. Colwood Coun. Brian Tucknott is quoted as saying: "The rail does not come anywhere near Colwood. Very few of our citizens would use it”. This is such an insular, unhelpful and narrow view of life in our city. No wonder little gets done in an effective way. Few citizens of Victoria will use the rail at all. They all live close to downtown. Yet they will clearly pay. If a rail line has benefits for the overall community, we should all pay. If it does not, then we should not build it. Whatever the decision, it would be best made by a city council representing all of us and our interests in a way that could reasonably debate the issue and vote on it.

Interestingly, Langford Coun. Lanny Seaton is quoted as saying: "This is a rare opportunity for Langford to support Victoria.” How sad that it is considered rare, for one neighbor (or perhaps the better analogy is, resident in the same house) to support the other.

Victoria police pulling out of regional expenses

The Victoria Police department is asking for a $2.35 million increase to their budget. They are also considering dropping out of the CREST radio system. They cite cost as the reason to pull out of the Regional Crime Unit. They also have to pay more for the computer access to share information between police departments.
So what is wrong with this?

First, if the police were amalgamated CREST, a separate agency put in place to manage the new radio system would not even exist. Thus while it could still have problems, it would be the police department that would be accountable for the problems, as they would have implemented what they felt was needed (or should have) in the first place. At a minimum the duplication and delay from having yet another level of management might have been avoided.

Second, if we have one police department protecting us in the area, no one would be pulling out of a Regional Crime Unit. The one department we should have for our region would hopefully be managing its resources to fight crime all over the city. They might change how they do that from time to time, but no one would be pulling out of sharing resources, knowledge and crime fighting.

Third, I cannot say that there would be a cost savings if all the departments regionally were one and thus already sharing information between departments, but one has to wonder if there are significant cost savings to be had through the use of the same technology in a larger department. Certainly the cost of soft ware licenses often gets cheaper as the number of units increases. Thus it is possible that cost savings might be found through a larger purchasing power.

Victoria alone makes Beacon Hill a heritage site

Victoria councilors agreed to designate Beacon Hill Park as a heritage site. No input was obtained by the majority of the region’s population.

Victoria of course does not have to consult, ask or even follow the direction of the majority of the region. It can do what it likes regardless of the fact that it is controlling an assets used and which benefits the entire region.

It may be that they are doing the right thing, if so that is lucky. The problem is that Beacon Hill, the inner harbour, the Blue Bridge, the Blackball Ferry terminal, and so many other key components of downtown are not areas in which only Victoria’s have an interest. These are key components of the entire city and it is wrong and unfair to allow a minority to dictate what will happen to them.

The region is entitled to input and control over these regional assets and that will only occur in an amalgamated city. The situation right now is grossly unfair. Obviously with control comes responsibility which the region should readily embrace. Better planning will come from the input of the entire region. Without question, an amalgamated city would have a better chance of getting the top people into office who could spend the time and effort to make the best decisions while considering the interests of the entire region.

Victoria considers giving Quadra a HOV lane (up to Sannich)

Victoria is looking at the "big-city" idea of making one of the lanes of Quadra into a HOV lane to encourage people to use the bus or car-pool.

Yet there was no indication that Saanich is even being considered in this. Recognizing that Victoria only controls Quadra Street up to Tolmie Avenue, it would be pointless to have an HOV lane only halfway up the street.

The fact that only one city is looking at ideas like this, or even that one city has to then convince another city that they should also cooperate, results in poor government.

If an HOV lane is a good idea, we should have one government considering it and deciding if it should be implemented.

Good government is one unified government which would consider issues like this, in the best interests of us all. That is something we do not have.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Graffiti – The artists travel but the Police do not

In the core, there are graffiti police specialists for Saanich, Oak Bay and Victoria. Each tracks the “art” and can tell if the same artist is involved in multiple tags. They keep their own data basis of information.

Their dream? A regional electronic graffiti database. Something the whole region could access so they could track vandalism in a timely manner and hopefully stop it.
This would not be a dream in an amalgamated city. There would be no hope that something might be done. No, there would be one data base as there would only be one police department.

So until common sense prevails, graffiti taggers can prolong their reign by rotating their tags through the municipalities. The taggers will not disappear with amalgamation, but we will be closer to a more effective ability to control them.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Major Infrastructure issues screwed up due to lack of amalgamation

Major infrastructure issues are potentially being screwed up due to a lack of amalgamation in the area.

The ongoing issues over sewage continue to cause significant unrest.
The CRD is trying to develop a plan for everyone, but as they are not elected they cannot make a decision in the best interests of all. As a result, Langford and Colwood will do something else on their own. The West Shore is frustrated with the way the CRD makes decisions.

The CRD points out there are complex regulations and statutes to be complied with. Meetings of the CRD are said to contain some “rancor”.

The city of Victoria plans to pursue the most expensive infrastructure program in its history, the replacement of the Blue Bridge at a huge cost.

The Blue Bridge is not simply “Victoria’s”. IT is an icon for the region. Look to the north from the legislature and the Blue Bridge is the most identifiable and interesting landmark you can see. It is as much a reflection of the capital as the legislature or the Empress.

The Bridge also allows for access to Esquimalt and to a lesser extent, other points west. The idea of making it a toll bridge is great until one realizes that it will just punish downtown businesses.

The Bridge is a regional facility, which benefits the region. The region should be part of the decision making on what is to occur and help carry the cost.
Should be move the decision process to the CRD then? Given the sewage problems, clearly not.

In one case we have a regional issue that the region cannot work together on.

In the other case we have a regional issue that no one else is allowed to work on.

Both issues point to the urgent need to amalgamate our city so the best decisions for the benefit of us all can be sought and implemented.

Victoria's Regional Crime Team (does not include Victoria!)

The police in Victoria and the West Shore are no longer part of a Regional Crime Team. They cite costs as the main issue.

It is not necessary to outline how criminals view Victoria as we all do, one city. Breaking into a home in Victoria and then in Saanich can occur without any thought as to the border at all. However issues like this make Greater Victoria just that much better a place for criminals. We are a mecca for professionals, retirees and of course criminals. Given that it is just a little bit easier here than in say Calgary, to break up the locations where you commit crime so that you might not be caught as easily has to make Victoria a little more attractive to the criminal element.

An amalgamated city would not have these issues. We would not need a “Regional Crime Unit”. The police would do their job, communicate among themselves, as most of us do in any organization and get the job done.

We pay a heavy price for the privilege to have so many governments in our small area and it just got heavier.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Petition at

The web site has been around for a couple of years now. It was created to generate support for amalgamation in advance of upcoming municipal elections. The web site has not been updated for some time but that will likely change in the near future.

One key part of the web site is a petition calling for the provincial government to move toward "less and better government" in the CRD.

The petition is well worded in that it wisely avoids a call for mandatory amalgamation of the entire region. Here is an excerpt:

"The Provincial Government has confirmed that they will only act on the issue of amalgamation once asked to do so by the citizens of the region.

There appears to be strong support in general for some form of amalgamation in the lower island, however there are different views on what is the best outcome. Some people favour one city, others prefer three (Sidney, Victoria and Colwood), or other variations yet.

The goal is to ensure the Provincial Government takes some steps towards improving the way the area is governed. If a specific result were to be dictated now, it could easily get sidetracked by arguments that it is not the best way to proceed.

The demand to the Provincial Government is not that they immediately create one city, rather that they take the steps needed to choose and implement a better organization of the municipalities."

Please take two minutes of your time and sign this important document.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grassroots support

A lot of people get frustrated - and justifiably so - with the political chaos generated by the 13 municipalities in our region. With exasperation in their voices, citizens ask themselves why the provincial government doesn't force amalgamation.

Personally, I don't think it's fair to expect Premier Campbell to wave his magic wand and amalgamate the CRD. I'm not a fan of this kind of "from the top" solution. It would generate deep resentment and bitterness among some residents of the Greater Victoria Area for a decade, maybe longer.

What is needed is a bottom up approach. If we want amalgamation we need to build grassroots support for the idea. First we need to develop broad support for amalgamation, and then we need to communicate that support to the provincial government.

There will always be some members of the public who oppose amalgamation. And in some cases, their opposition will be vocal and rabbid. But in my opinion it would be more difficult to remain angry about amalgamation if it came about as a result of a democratic grassroots campaign.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Toll for the Blue Bridge?

There has been a comment made by some that Victoria might have to set up a toll to pay for a replacement of the Blue Bridge.

The comment makes perfect sense given our municipal make up. In fact there should be tolls all along the Oak Bay boarder as well. If they do not want to pay they should not play.

But realistically, we cannot put up tolls for the very reason that we are one city. Downtown needs everyone to come to it to survive. A toll would be a significant disadvantage to Victoria itself. While it is more than appropriate to have a toll if no other municipality is going to help pay for the bridge, to do so would have far too much of a negative impact on Victoria.

The sad part is that it is even considered. It is considered because we are not working as one, towards a common goal. Clearly a bridge is helpful to everyone in the region. It allows emergency services to get where they are needed. It allows people to travel to see a play or visit family and friends.

It is extremely irritating to consider that this issue, which has a significant impact on every one of us, will not be debated by twelve of the municipalities.
Only one small fraction of our region will decide if and how this icon, that we all know and have a stake in, will be changed. That must be frustrating if you care about Greater Victoria.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Facebook group supports amalgamation

There is a local Facebook group called "Victoria Doesn't Need 15 Governments, It Needs to Amalagamate!"

The group was started by Ted Walton. The group currently has 69 members including myself. In case you're wondering, here is how Ted came up with 15 governments:

Oak Bay
North Saanich
Central Saanich
View Royal
Capital Regional District (CRD)
and The Islands Trust

The title of this Facebook group is a little unwieldy but the idea behind it is a good one. Facebook is a powerful social networking tool that supporters of amalgamation can use to develop grassroots support. Ask yourself this: "What would happen if a Facebook group like this had 50,000 members?" Surely local politicians would begin to pay attention.

Please join this group and show your support for amalgamation.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My first post

This is my first post for the Amalgamate Greater Victoria blog. I'm excited to contribute to the discussion and I would like to thank James for allowing me to post here.

A little about me: I lived in Victoria for a couple of years as a kid. Victoria was (and still is) a great place for children with beaches, hidden gardens, rocks for climbing etc. I moved to Chiliwack sometime around 1990 (give or take a year, it's hard to remember dates when you're that young). As a military family we moved around a lot, so I've lived all over Canada and overseas as well. I was in Halifax when that city and the surrounding municipalities amalgamated into the Halifax Regional Municipality. My last stop before permanently returning to Victoria was Toronto. That was enough to convince me that I was tired of living in big cities with cold winters.

This is my seventh year living in Victoria as an adult, and I now work as a police officer. I have a strong interest in drug policy reform, which I pursue while off-duty. Like my work in drug policy, I should clarify that any opinions I express on this blog are my own, and they don't represent those of my department.

For me the issue of amalgamation is not about lower taxes but rather better government. For the most part, because of my job, I'll stay away from commenting about local public safety issues. (Fortunately, if you look through the blog archives you'll see that James does a superb job of examining those issues.)

Lastly, I should clarify that James and I might not share the exact same vision of an amalgamated city, nor the precise path to get there. That's natural. If you talk to your neighbors about amalgamation, you'll find lots of variation. Some support one united city, some like the idea of three cities, and some simply want to merge with their neighboring municipality and no one else. It's important not to get hung up on these differences. Instead, we should focus on the fact that we can improve local government and our quality of life through some form of amalgamation.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

We Are Too Fractured to Have a Bomb Squad - So Now We Are at Risk

More than 50 homes were evacuated near Esquimalt, until the Vancouver-based RCMP bomb squad could perform a controlled detonation of potentially explosive chemicals.

This was a process that cost a significant amount of money and took at least six hours or more to arrange.

The alternative would have beeb to call CFB Esquimalt, just minutes away. They were not called. It appears that the Department of National Defence's desire for greater accountability in spending federal taxpayers' dollars, in part, led to stricter guidelines for the base. Previously, the Canadian Forces would sometimes respond to local incidents on an informal basis.

So what is the underlying issue here? One has to wonder if this problem would not have been resolved much more quickly and cheaply if there police/cites were amalgamated. What options would we have if amalgamated?

First we have a bomb squad, minutes away that has the training, manpower and resources to deal with bombs. It is very conceivable that a major, capital city (not 13 small constituencies) could negotiate with DND to provide bomb squad assistance, when needed at a reasonable cost. This would benefit the city, the Federal government and make a whole lot of sense.

Why is this not happening?
• Likely the idea of having to deal with multiple municipalities all in very close proximity, but which do not work together on all issues, makes it unlikely that the Federal government was even approached. A small city just cannot contemplate what to do on its own with a bomb. They likely just ignore the issue. I expect the Highlands may not have a lot of calls for bomb removal.
• Perhaps an annual fee should be paid, in which case, who would pay it?

Second, even if we ignore DND, is it not reasonable to hope that a city the size of Greater Victoria might have some people on staff who could provide this service? Then if there were a call from up island, say Duncan they could sell their services there much more quickly than having Vancouver come over?

The issue as always, is good government for the benefit of the people served. Good government for our area is not achieved by doling out power to small pockets. We lose out on so many opportunities which often become apparent when there is a problem. What if this were a live bomb in Oak Bay? No one can suggest it will not happen. At a minimum a larger city could reasonably put out the resources to consider and plan for the eventuality of a bomb. Maybe the answer would be to continue using Vancouver services. I doubt it.

DND needs to be accountable for their spending. By providing a service for a fee to avoid the nearby duplication of a service which has significant training costs but limited demand would benefit Canada and our local residents. An amalgamated city stands a better chance of making that happen.

Will Sewers be the Line to Amalgamation?

The CRD is now preparing a report on how a municipality can leave shared sewage and start its own utility. Esquimalt and Colwood are interested already.

Judy Brownoff noted that Ottawa is under pressure from other cities to spend the money it’s committed for infrastructure projects.

Clearly it is more likely that the Federal government will pay more attention to a city which has its act together and can move forward, than trying to deal with 13 bickering municipalities which cannot do so. The fact that the CRD is now identifying how its member cities can back out is so absolutely counter-productive to the basic concept of working together for the greater good, that it raises the question as to whether the CRD itself is of any value.

Is this not like those areas of Saanich on septic? At some point, if you are going to put in services for an area, you need to tell everyone they have to hook up. You should not have someone on septic when the neigbour is on sewer. The cost to put in the sewer system is too great not to require that it be shared, for the good of all. Certainly one owner may say they have a perfectly fine system and do not want to hook up to a sewer. But the land will be there forever and as development grows, there are costs to living in the area which must be shared.

Perhaps that is the way to look at the whole issue of the cities here in Greater Victoria. Years ago they made sense, having been separated by long drives with little to connect them between the farms and forest. However as land development has grown and the lines between the cities blurred, it is simply time to acknowledge that there are costs to living here in Greater Victoria and you must share them. There are long term benefits to all, through cooperation and the implementation of consistent systems and services.

We as a region have developed to the point where we must logically be amalgamated. Hopefully the sewers will be the line to the Provincial will to make it so.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fire Deparments should be amalgamated

I read that, for a population of 30,000 people in a very small area, there are four different fire departments.

To be fair, one is with the airport, and they may always want a dedicated fire department, but for Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney, to all have separate independently run fire departments, makes no logical sense.

Thankfully there is a suggestion from Ron Kubek on the counsel of Central Saanich that the issue should be reviewed to see if it makes sense to group the paid and volunteer firefighters under one management. Perhaps it makes sense to share specialized equipment, training, and group purchasing power.

If it makes sense for these areas to consider joining forces, would not there be an even greater sharing of resources, equipment, training, expertise, purchasing power, and manpower by making the region organized under one fire department with a number of fire halls?

Remember not every fire hall is its own department. There are clearly significant advantages from a larger group working together on such a fundamentally important issue.

The issue would solve itself, if the municipalities themselves were amalgamated.

Victoria alone, is considering the expenditure of $200,000.00 for a two-week party to celebrate the Olympics.

Victoria alone, is considering the expenditure of $200,000.00 for a two-week party to celebrate the Olympics.

Not a word though from the other 12 municipalities. Why is it not “Oak Bay is considering a $200,000.00 Olympic party”? The reason is that the other municipalities and their residents virtually always rely on Victoria to undertake events of regional significance.

If there is to be a celebration, it should be for and on behalf of the region. It makes no sense that there would be 13 small celebrations. If it is a good idea for the area to celebrate, then it only makes sense that it would occur as a group activity.

Yet as we are now, that will never happen. Victoria might go it alone. A few other municipalities, out of a feeling of guilt might throw a few dollars at it. But really, this is not an issue which should be dragged out and around to all the municipalities to see if they like the idea or not.

This is an idea, which should be debated on its merits, by city counselors, elected by all of us to make a decision. If they decide to go for it, then we all get to participate. If they decide it is not warranted, then we as a region will know why.

Just another example of how we could have good and better government from a regional entity.

Esquimalt’s crime rates drop so they want to pay less

The Esquimalt mayor considers that the crime rate is a tool to look at being able to reduce what they pay for police services. Given that the crime rate has gone down since the police were amalgamated, the thought is that so might the expenses.
The thought is indicative of the problem of different “bosses” controlling the same department. Obviously, if the crime rate were to plummet to half of what it was five years ago, no one, for a long time, will suggest that the policing provided should be cut in half. Likely it is the policing that has resulted in less crime.

Even if the policing itself has not resulted in less crime, the point is that in a unified city, the issue of how much a particular area is contributing to overall safety would never and should never be raised.

Policing is a regional issue. Esquimalt should pay to help police downtown. So should everyone else as many of the problems originate from people who live in the 12 other municipalities? To waste time asking if we are paying our fair share is just that, a waste of political resources.

It is fair to ask are we as a region getting the best value for our policing dollar, but those dollars are to be shared by us all. Even the possibility that Esquimalt might, due to a decrease in crime in their area, obtain a temporary reduction in costs, at the expense of Victoria is foolish.

Perhaps there should be an overall reduction in Police spending. That argument is reasonable to pursue. If so there will be a savings for all. But to look at the issue in isolation, is like Sunnymead saying we should pay less tax as we do not use near the police services allocated in other areas of Saanich. Would that be reasonable? Perhaps the residents of Sunnymead would appreciate reduced taxes, but likely they also appreciate the opportunity to go to the Royal Oak mall and know there is a reasonable level of police services there to protect them.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Victoria May Ask Saanich To Re-Think Their Electric Car Ban

Mayor Fortin wants Saanich to allow electric cars, as it is silly to allow then in three of the core cities and not Saanich. He may ask them to look at it again.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard took exception to Fortin's remarks, and is quoted as saying: "It's no more [appropriate] than if I were to write to Victoria council and ask them to reconsider a decision. I'd have quite a long list, too."

I hope I am not the only one to note that had we one city, or at least one in the core, our counsellors would have made a decision for us all (in favour or not) but then we could move on for now, rather than waste time with different cities pushing separate agendas on the others.

If we were amalgamated, Frank Leonard would not have to take his long list to Victoria as he may be on the counsel of the amalgamated city. Dean Fortin would not have to contemplate if he was going to talk to Saanich about reconsidering, as the city would have addressed the issue and his views would have been known and considered before the vote.

This is not the most compelling of points raised for amalgamation but it does show yet again why it makes so much sense for our region.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Can Greater Victoria Plan For More Retirees And Fewer Workers?

An interesting article indicates that Greater Victoria’s economy will have trouble sustaining itself in the future. The population is aging and there will be 2.8 new seniors for every new worker over the next 30 years. Issues include a lack of entry-level work force, housing for those with low incomes, care for the elderly, and how to bring in workers from areas like Duncan.

The mayor of View Royal is quoted as saying “what it does challenge is our ability to service ourselves as a community. With the very high cost of property, who is going to do the work to sustain a community of this greater size? To me this speaks directly to our regional transportation and mobilizing our labour force over the hump to Duncan and places like that, where real property costs are a bit less.”

These are serious issues, and they affect all of us in profound ways. While it may not be guaranteed that a larger city will have the answers, it is far more likely that a unified area will be able to address the issues better and more successfully than trying to slowly get 13 municipalities to work together and implement plans.

For example, a larger city would have a greater ability to:
· Identify, zone and fund property for low cost housing where younger workers might live;
· Plan and implement regional transportation;
· Identify, zone, support and facilitate regional housing for the elderly;
· Provide support for the elderly.

There are no guarantees, but logic suggests that a larger population, working together will have a greater ability to address what will be radical and unprecedented changes in our demographics. How is Oak Bay going to address the lack of people to provide support workers for the elderly? Should not residents in Langford have to help pay for elderly support services for their parents who live in Saanich? Can we just move a few miles away so we can ignore the obligations that make us a community?

Perhaps Central Saanich should put a toll on the roads leading out from the airport to help fun their own elderly support services. Could that be a situation that develops when we worry just about our limited population in a larger area.

Life in a community requires us to be a community. We need to work towards the best future possible and we cannot do it the way we are divided up right now. The future has a lot of changes in store for us and we would all be better off working together to make the best of it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sooke Waits For Someone To Help Pay For Clean Up Of Torched Tugboat

Mayor Janet Events has told her staff to do nothing about an environmental hazard now sitting in Sooke Harbour. The burned out tugboat could cause significant environmental problems, in addition to being an eye sore in the Harbour.

While no one wants to pay to clean up someone else’s garbage (the owner should pay in this case), the reality is that the community does have to fix it when problems show up on its property.

The larger the community, the greater the ability to deal with the problem quickly and cost effectively for everyone.

A larger community would just get on with doing what needed to be done and hope to recover the cost after. An issue like this should not wait until “someone” pays for it. However a small group clearly could lack the resources to suddenly payout $120,000.00.

An amalgamated area though, may have the internal ability to clean up the mess or the ability to share the cost among a larger group, therefore avoiding the need to wait for someone else to step forward. Meanwhile the risk to the environment we all enjoy, remains.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Combined Staff might help our Boulevards

The TC wrote about "Boulevards of broken budgets stump Victoria officials." While the article did not mention how the other 12 municipalities deal with their boulevard issues, we can assume each has to do so in some way. I really do not know for sure if this would be an issue better dealt with by amalgamation. One might find different results in different areas in any event.

However, a united area will have better resources to deal with the issue. Perhaps dedicated summer relief, who could mow all the boulevards in the core, would become more practical than each municipality dealing with the issue separately. Perhaps this too is not feasible.

Interestingly, there are many ideas being put forward regarding what to do, but the city is just turning people away because they do not have the capacity to manage the requests and they don't have a policy in place.

Certainly it is more likely that a unified city, with sufficient staffing (and more to the point, with the proper allocation of staff time) could deal with the issue. A city of a reasonable size, could deal with issues like this and many more, by having departments large enough to deal with issues.

A city should have departments with sufficient people and expertise to work effectively for the population. It is impossible to believe that if all the relevant staff in the many cities we have were combined, we would not have a more effective administration.

By combined staff, we would be able to afford to have people in place who both know what they are doing and have the time to do it. Rather than an individual having to do a number of different tasks within a department, staff could maximize their efficiency by focusing on more defined tasks for a larger area of our cities.

A larger city, while it will still have to deal with its boulevards, would at least have the manpower to ensure that people are not `just turned away. `

Ban on alcohol on buses - affects mainly those outside Victoria

Victoria Police and B.C. Transit enforced a controversial one-day policy that banned the carrying of alcohol onto buses.

What is telling here is that this was in practice, primarily a ban on those who live outside of Victoria. For the majority of Victorians, they would be able to walk downtown and would not have been affected by the ban, or the possibility of a search on a bus.

This occurred without any input from those outside of Victoria. Now, it is not to say that the policy was right or wrong. Rather the point is that this reflects the reality that we are one city which should be governed as such. If the policy is sound, it should be adopted and implemented by all municipalities.

An additional reminder here is the fact that we have B.C. Transit controlling our bus system. We need them as we have 13 municipalities, all serviced by the same buses. However Ottawa, which is an amalgamated city, controls and runs its own bus system. It would certainly make sense that we do so ourselves. The issue of public transportation is a huge issue of interest to us all. It should not be controlled by a third party, with no responsibility to the public it serves.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Oak Bay has no services for the homeless - and does not appear to contribute any assistance either

Jody Paterson made an interesting comment about a fellow who was banished from the City of Victoria by the court. He had to live in Oak Bay for 10 days, which was difficult as there was no access to food or shelter.

Oak Bay has no services or supports for the homeless. The Oak Bay police were perplexed, as they could not even take him to the drunk tank as they do not have one and use Victoria’s.

So what struck me about this was not the fact of the order being made, which is another issue. But May Causton's comment that “we do not have any services, referring to people like the fellow affected. So how is it that Oak Bay gets away with this? There is no question that some of its residents become homeless (sometimes youth who chose to do so). There is also no question that they use the services of other municipalities, for gas, transportation, work opportunities, shopping, entertainment and supplemental policing.

So how is it they do not contribute to homeless services? Now, I have not researched this and perhaps they will claim they do contribute to homeless services somehow. Being pessimistic, I doubt they do, or if they do, that they do so adequately. I would think that Mayor Causton, if Oak Bay did contribute, would have said, “the court is excluding this fellow from the services we provide, as we provide them downtown.”

The fact is that the homeless issue is regional and no mayor should ever say we do not services. Our “one” mayor should say the services we provide are in such a place and the court should not exclude people from those services.

If we are not going to have a regional city or two, then Oak Bay instead of clearly pushing the burden on its neigbours, should be helping the homeless as well. How can Victoria’s mandate to try and address homelessness ever be successful without the assistance of all of us? And if homelessness is an issue, which should be addressed, why would it have to be separately considered by each municipality?

Should not a unified city, if it thinks the issue should be addressed, do so, in an effective way, without the additional politics of trying to get the neighbours to buy in? Certainly at the first instance the counselors, representing their constituents in a unified city would debate the issue and decide if they would do anything. But once that is done then lets deal with it. Does that not make sense?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Saanich should not consider the concerns of View Royal Residents on issues involving the use of land in Saanich – which is a problem

Saanich mayor finds that a public hearing on the sale of liquor at Highlands Pacific golf course will “be interesting”.

This is because all the neighbors who will care about this and perhaps object live in View Royal. In fact you can only get to the golf course by going through View Royal.

If there are concerns raised by View Royal residents, the chances of them being addressed are close to nil. Why would Saanich care? If it is good for a municipal business, which pays taxes to the city, and there is no down side to the city, which collects that tax, they must reasonably allow whatever is asked for.

The impact on residents in another city should not be a concern. This is true…except for the fact that we all live so close together that we are one city in fact, just not on paper.

So while Saanich should listen and possibly accept the concerns of those outside the city, given our current setup, counsel should not listen to those concerns. To do so would be contrary to their obligation to do what is best for the residents of Saanich.

Right now, they should ignore the residents of View Royal.

However this is not the result that is best for our “City”. The best result is for Saanich and View Royal to be amalgamated, and then there would be an obligation to do what is best for the whole city, which includes everyone who is affected.

View Royal Resident needs Esquimalt to act, in order to minimise problems created by Saanich

Saanich is proceeding to replace the wooden bridge on Admirals Road. To do so they will close the bride to all but local traffic.

The sad part of this is that the people concerned about how the potential problems are being addressed live in View Royal. It is View Royal residents that use the bridge daily. A suggestion has been made, that to alleviate the resulting problems with diverted traffic, the lights at Craigflower and Tillicum could be improved with a left-turn signal.
However that intersection is in Esquimalt.

Saanich plans to “pass on the concerns” to Esquimalt.

So here we have one bridge being closed in Saanich, which significantly affects those in View Royal, but which needs Esquimalt to spend money to assist in minimizing the resulting problems.

Right now the citizens in View Royal have no right to say or do anything about the situation. Esquimalt has no obligation to do anything and likely will not. Saanich can proceed and ignore the effect of the closure on anyone outside of the municipality.

Clearly this is a situation, which would be best addressed by one city dealing with the issue in a unified way.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Esquimalt may have their sewage flow West rather than with the rest of the CRD

Esquimalt politicians have suggested that if the West Shore comes up with a better sewer treatment idea than the rest of the CRD, they may just join in with them.

Now I wonder what happens if View Royal sticks with the CRD? Would Esquimalt pump the sewage across the harbour to be treated?

How can politicians really think this way?

The reality is that the issue of sewage, transportation, water, etc. are so fundamentally a joint concern of us all, that to have pockets going off on their own makes no long term sense.

Given the geography of the area and the impact of the waterways, it may well make sense to have differences in defined areas such as the West Shore. I have no idea. But what I do believe, is that the sewage issue should be resolved by one, or maybe three entities with control to ensure that the best possible outcome if found for the next 50 to 100 years.

Can thirteen different municipalities come up with their own unique solutions? Is that good for the region? Are three different solutions ok? Or should there be a common vision that looks at what is best for all of us?

Cars must stop at municipal boarders

We now have the start of what could become a boarder patrol. I am kidding, but it is the logical result of the way we are heading.

Saanich has voted to not let electric cars (slower ones anyway) be used on the street. However, they are legal in Oak Bay, Esquimalt and Colwood. So as I drive my electric car up Tillicum, I must stop at the Gorge Bridge. Oak Bay residents will not be as lucky to have such a defined boarder stop. They will have to just know when to hit the breaks and not go any further down the street once they hit an invisible line.

This shows again the silliness of having multiple jurisdictions in such a small area. The CRD even went to the effort of spending our money and resources, to draft a suggested bylaw for the local municipalities to pass. Some did some did not. Why do we have the CRD doing work that may or may not be used by municipalities?

If a car is legal in a couple of areas, it has to be legal in all. Any other result is simply unacceptable to all of us who live here together.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Re-shaping the map of Greater Victoria

Frank Stanford commented that “we are experiencing a historic re-shaping of the map of Greater Victoria...and we hope we have not misplaced our faith in our politicians and bureaucrats to get it right.

He was addressing the increase in various high-rise developments, downtown and in Saanich, which help save parkland and improve overall planning and society costs.

His point is correct and if we are serious as a region to have planned areas of high density along with parks, which most of us are, then such planned development is most likely going to occur with an amalgamated region.

Think about it. Who would want to ensure there is parkland in which to hike and explore, which is close to home, more than the residents of Victoria? No one. The Highlands residents could say they can handle more development which would give those few residents a greater tax base, because other parkland is so close to them in the west. Yet that land just becomes further and further away for the majority of the area's population.

If you want to maintain parks, make sure the people of the region have a say in it, not just the few in an area who might benefit from reduced taxed with more development.

If you want to improve the cultural facilities of the region, with a new concert hall, stadium, theatre, ask everyone in the area to consider the issue, as those who attend will come from all over.

Long term planning for a community cannot be successfully done by thirteen different blocks going in their own direction.

It is naive to think that the interests of the West Shore are significantly different than the core. We all move freely and regularly among the cities and what happens in one area affects us all. Many of us live, work and recreate in different municipalities every week.

The reality is that without amalgamation, the chances that our 91 municipal representatives, will never get it right.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crack pipes for free vs. none at all.

Victoria counsel will debate a proposal to distribute free crack pipes, the purpose of which is to reduce the spread of hepatitis C.

Conversely, Esquimalt is looking at ways to restrict the actual sale of glass tubes, steel wool and baking soda, all of which are used in smoking crack.

These municipalities border each other and aside from a periodic, discrete sign, no one walking around would ever know when they are in one or the other. So why would we have the possibility of such diverse situations in such a small area?

I suppose it is like allowing smoking on one floor of a building but not the other. But really, which ever is the right approach, should it not apply to the whole region?

If restricting the purchase of items is ever going to be useful in reducing crack use, it has to be region wide. Otherwise it is just a political “feel good” position (which will be pointless to crack users) and which will create useless bureaucracy, assuming it is even enforced.

If distributing free crack pipes is ever going to be useful in reducing hepatitis C, it has to be region wide. Otherwise it will have a limited effect, which while it might be useful, fails to achieve the potential benefit to the region in which we all live.

Regardless of which approach you support, would it not make sense that the approach be consistent in the region?

It could be suggested that someone could go to all 13 counsels to try and convince them to get on board with either proposal. However, that would be such a waste of energy, time and resources, compared to working with one or two effective cities.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sewage – The Outfall of which should be Amalgamation

The news again, as it will for some time, focused on the CRD and sewage. Remember that the CRD is making decisions on the biggest issue ever considered by the region and the residents of the area did not even elect these people to the CRD.

However the point is that the current proposal is for tow facilities, which will still result in raw sewage during heavy rainfall. This will be alleviated in the future when something more is built at Clover Point. This delay, “would allow the CRD to urge municipalities to fix their broken and leaky underground pipes.”

This is another ridiculous situation. Why would the CRD have to urge itself to do anything? It has to because we have 13 separate municipalities under the CRD. The fact is, whatever needs to be done, or not done, should simply be taken on or dismissed by THE city. The politicians of a city are elected to make decisions in the best interests of the citizens as a whole. We do not need the CRD to urge its own members to fix what is broken.

I also noted that the plan is now for a West Shore treatment plant in 2025. In the interim their sewage would be pumped to Esquimalt. No comment was noted from anyone in the West Shore. I take it they will be happy with this and can feel satisfied that their big stink over one large centre in Colwood was successful in eliminating that backyard. What of Esquimalt though?

Also, what of their threat to pull out all together? Perhaps the West Shore will pump sewage to Esquimalt for the next ten years and then say we will go on our own, or perhaps then the ideal land will be too developed to be used in that area.

This issue alone, should rally everyone to say that it only makes sense that a unified city or three would be best suited to undertake and manage these issues into the future.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

School Boards reflect similar conflicts to the Cities

While my concern is with having too many municipalities for such a small population, the news regarding the Greater Victoria school district getting a two-week spring break next year is of interest.

School trustees voted unanimously in favour of extending the 2010 break to two weeks from one. The decision applies to all schools in Greater Victoria School District 61, which includes Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Victoria, View Royal and a portion of Saanich and Highlands.

Now given that families may have children in different school districts, or at a minimum friends, cousins etc., it is illogical that children in the same Region could have different spring breaks. Private schools always did have a two-week break, but the majority of students have had the same break in all the public schools. The same week, the same length of time.

The fact students, their parents and the parents' employers, could be faced with different breaks in the same “City” suggests that not only should the cities amalgamate but so might the School Boards.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sweeping drug bust across Greater Victoria

Sounds like the police did a good job recently. They coordinated searches at the same time in Esquimalt, Victoria and the West Shore.

To do so, they had to get members of the:
1. Victoria Police,
2. The Regional Crime Unit,
3. Saanich Police,
4. Westshore RCMP,
5. RCMP Drug Section,
6. Military Police and
7. Both Emergency Response Teams from Greater Victoria.

Now while it is commendable that they were able to get all seven entities to work together in three municipalities, one has to wonder: Would this not have been easier to have been implemented with one regional police force?

Success on this endeavour is not the point. The fact that they had to call upon the resources of seven different groups raises significant possibilities of error. At a minimum it is clear that resources must have been wasted in coordinating and bringing in the different groups.

Citizens would feel much safer to have read that the Regional Police force made sweeping drug busts.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Policing Continues To Be A Regional Issue That Is Not Being Addressed

We should have a regional police department and we should have it now. The issue comes up often and would clearly have been of value when Peter Lee killed his family in 2007. Typically, criminals do not keep within municipal boarders. A break and enter spree to the east of Harriett street might not be know to the police patrolling the west side of the street.

How can you really argue we would not be better off with the same computer records system, radios, knowledge base and focus on criminals throughout Greater Victoria?

The police officers themselves would prefer it. Perhaps there will not be the opportunity for as many to move up the ranks to Chief, but certainly the opportunities to all would be increased.

The fact is, the problems the police deal with cross every boarder every day and they should be one department to deal with all of it. The cost must be shared.

On May 10, 2009 a Victoria office broke his leg in a downtown melee. Arrested were three men in their mid 20s, from two from Saanich and one from Chilliwack. How can Saanich say they should not share the cost of policing downtown? How can any local municipality?

If my children or I are in downtown Victoria, which they we will be, I want to be safe. I accept that we should all share that cost. The brawl, which the Victoria police dealt with certainly put at risk people from a number of our municipalities.

If downtown is where the risks are, then that is where the region needs to put its resources. If there are problems in View Royal then a regional force will have the resources to deal with it.

The question is: do you want the best police force a city of 350,000 can have or do you want to save some money and put your children at risk when they go out at night?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

“Esquimalt, Saanich show why they need to Amalgamate”.

May 6, 2009 the TC front-page headline should have been “Esquimalt, Saanich show why they need to Amalgamate”.

Victoria went ahead to build an arena, which without question, is a regional facility. They did so with the agreement of other municipalities who agreed to provide funds for ten years.

Now some of those same municipalities, after about five years have pulled out. Esquimalt claims the City of Victoria should make an annual application to them for funding. Saanich has the gall to say our money seems to be surplus to their needs. View Royal and Oak Bay keep paying their small shares, but even those are considered to be reviewable each year.

This is wrong and reminds me of the silly issues up in Central and North Saanich when they could not agree on funding a mutual recreational facility resulting in different user fees depending on where you lived.

Clearly this was a regional facility that should be paid for regionally. To say one city needs to apply annually for funding from another city is a waste of time and simply wrong.

The Province could correct this by at least amalgamating the four core municipalities. How anyone could think we currently have good governance when this can occur, has a poor sense of what good government is.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

37-member community liaison committee needed to look at Transit

British Columbia Transit scrapped the plans to build dedicated bus lanes down Douglas Street. Now the province is paying another $800,000 for a region wide transit plan. They want to figure out how to connect downtown to the West Shore and in the future the Saanich Peninsula.

They have a 37-member community liaison committee, including representatives from municipal counsels, business, school boards etc. Nine different municipalities are separately represented. For some reason the other 28 people at the table will perhaps fail to consider the needs of these nine municipalities.

View Royal has one representative and Saanich has one representative. View Royal thus has 12 times the representation Saanich does. Twelve times.

So this is just wrong. First, no committee of 37 is likely to come up with the best plan for a city or a region. Whatever the result, likely it will either never be followed or a poor third best compromise for the region will be implemented.
One to three cities could best consider what is needed, what is affordable and what is practical.

Would it not be better to have a unified area consider our traffic and transit plans?

Mayor Fortin wants to have a commuter rail into downtown. He says “all the South Island mayors are behind this proposal” Really? Wait until they are asked to pay for it. Wait until View Royal is asked to chip in based on the distance traveled in their municipality.

Why do we need all the South Island Mayors to be behind it. The counsel should be behind it. The mayor is only one vote on each counsel anyway.
It is so frustrating to see issues such as this, which have such a major impact on all of us, being placed in the hands of so many with so many different perspectives.

Would it not be better for a committed, educated (on the issues) smaller group to gather and consider the facts, then present a proposal to one City counsel? Then that counsel could actually implement it? Or not. But at least then we could all bring them to task on the issue. As it is, if something gets derailed, by say Colwood, the rest of us can do nothing.

Emergency Preparation is for everyone not just downtown

The City of Victoria is advertising Emergency Preparedness week and things to do along with a list of items they suggest you have. These can be picked up at Victoria City municipal locations. But there is no advertising for what the residents in the other twelve municipalities should do or how they get their information.

Regardless of whether one thinks it is a good use of money to advertise the issue, you have to agree that if there is a major emergency in Victoria there will be one everywhere in the capital region. Thus, why is one of the thirteen municipalities advertising to the whole region on this issue and not the others?

Of course it would be the epitome of silliness to hear thirteen different radio ads, all with a similar but slightly different message on preparing for an earthquake. The media would certainly like the advertising revenue.

It just points out more issues (both emergency preparedness and advertising) that cross all local boarders. We should all be working on this together.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Could Sewage be the issue to bring us Amalgamation?

Sewage, like water, is an easy issue to clearly say affects us all. We need the same level of service. If we are going to pump it into the ocean, we might as well all do so. If we are going to treat it, clearly it should be the same system.
Colwood politicians have shown us clearly, just how poor our region is governed. The issue is about good government not what is best for me or saving money.

Colwood politicians have given us an immediate negative reaction to an idea, for a regional sewer plant in their municipality, which has simply been suggested.

The reaction has within days, taken us from working towards the hopefully best solution for the region, to beginning talks with neighbouring municipalities to see if they can devise a sewage solution for the West Shore on their own.
Are you kidding me? Apparently not.

A city should absolutely have counsellors concerned about the people and focused on finding a good solution for all. But to have the ability to say, I do not like what you want so we are doing what we want it the very epitome of poor municipal government for us all.

Maybe we should put a plant in the middle of Oak Bay as suggested by Colwood Mayor David Saunders. Let us see what it costs for the land, and if it the location will work for the discharge and the collection of sewage. I expect the land costs alone would sink the idea.

The West Shore is not owned by David Saunders nor even the people that live there as opposed to those who live in View Royal. It is our regional land and we must work together for the common good. This reaction is exactly why Greater Victoria is not as successful as it could be. I did not say Victoria was not successful, but it could be so much more.

We continually notice that we do not seem to get our fair share of federal and provincial grants/supports. This is in large part due to the fact that it is not one major city asking for help, it is rather 13 small communities, which cannot always work together.

As was commented on by others, the Hartland Land fill is in Saanich and benefits everyone. Should Colwood now set up their own landfill? Of course not.

We need one, or at most three municipal governments in our area. Or maybe I am wrong. What good logic is there to suggest that the 13 municipalities should each go on their own, or with the friends they chose, to deal with such fundamental issues?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Rest of Canada sees us as one City

This is the link to Frank Stanford's comment on Apr 28, 2009 about MONEYSENSE magazine ignoring the fractured state of our city and referring to all of us (from Sooke to Sidney) as Victoria.

I could not say it better. My only added comment is that it is not just this one magazine that recognises us as a single entity, the majority of Canada does. Can you imagine telling a friend from Winnipeg that you live in Saanich rather than Victoria? Of course not.

Canada post certainly has no difficulty in considering most of us in Victoria. Most newswire stories will refer to us as Victoria. A national story running on the late night news is not likely going to refer to View Royal, they will tell Canadians that the news occurred in Victoria.

It reminds me, that Peter C. Newman, who use to live in Saanich, would have gone in the opposite direction. He set out his address as living in “Cordova Bay” rather than Saanich. If View Royal makes sense as a separate municipality, maybe we should divide Saanich into 8 new towns. Or not.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Who’s Harbour is it?

The Harbour should belong to all the citizens of Greater Victoria.

The chairman of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, Don Prittie has made some public comments supporting the proposed marina on the Inner Harbour. He was quoted as saying "I have no doubt that there is going to be significant economic spinoff for the region."

The development has run into opposition from Songhees residents who complain their waterfront views will be spoiled, kayakers who feel it will interfere with their access to the water and others who suggest that the addition of the big yachts will compromise safety in the harbour.

The problem with this whole issue is that the Harbour is an asset of the region. As pointed out by Don Prittie the whole region may benefit. Perhaps the region will be negatively affected. Either way, it is all of us in Greater Victoria who will be impacted by any use of the inner harbour and it should be all of us who have a say, through our government on what happens.

I appreciate that there will always be additional issues when it comes to the ocean, which may require Federal of Provincial involvement, but the people in Saanich have just as much concern about the harbour as those in Victoria. It is likely the people in Oak Bay who want to kayak in the harbour. Perhaps someone living in North Saanich wants to moor a yacht there.

Why do we have a Greater Victoria Harbour Authority anyway? If this were one city, at least in the core area, could not the city manage this asset for the benefit of us all?

Do you not think good government for our region would mean that we all elect the people who make the decisions about such an important area of our region? As I live in Saanich, my counsellors have no say in what goes on in the harbour. That is simply wrong. The harbour belongs to us all, as do all the regional assets we enjoy, regardless of what municipality we live in.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Protecting the Wilderness needs an Amalgamated City

There has been comment recently about land-use decisions being one of the greatest challenges facing southern Vancouver Island. The focus is now on the Western Forest Products lands. The debate over a marina in the Inner Harbor is similar. Previously, issues have been raised over development in areas such as Bear Mountain.

The reality is that a more focused municipal government would be in a much better position to resolve land use issues for us all.

I wonder if Bear Mountain would have been developed if the population of Victoria and Saanich had a say? Perhaps they would have said we do not want that development, we would rather have green space and wilderness close to home so we can enjoy it. The same goes for the lands of Western Forest Products. Do the citizens of our city want more development or wilderness they can access? If we were all in this together we could plan logically.

Remember when Costco was looking for a place to build? They went to a number of different municipalities, spent time investigating land and options, only to find that the municipality would not approve it. I am not saying we should have a Costco or not, however, they should have been able to determine what areas if any, were proper to pursue without a lot of trial and error.

A City, concerned for all its citizens could enforce a logical plan which would provide for areas of industry, retail and recreation that benefit the whole, not just a small area.

Residents in all the CRD should have a say in what happens in the Inner Harbor, it is there for all of us. You all use it or benefit from it. The people that might enjoy a nearby wilderness experience are likely living in Oak Bay. They may be prepared to pay for that opportunity through restrictions on the development of the wilderness. Or they may wish to have the costs of urban living shared by a greater population.

We live in such a small area that these issues, which clearly impact more than the current local municipalities, would benefit from an amalgamated region.

Sewage is an issue for an Elected counsel of a Unified City

One of the most significant financial issues ever to be resolved in the Greater Victoria Area is going to be the issue of sewage treatment.

No one will be running an election platform on this, as it will be decided by the CRD, which we do not elect.

If we had a city that reflected the same area that needs to address its sewage needs, we would be able to elect people who reflected what we as a region support (Well that is the hope anyway).

But due to the fact we have 13 municipalities, which may or may not be part of a new sewage system the issue is in the hands of the un-elected Capital Regional District. While the members of this extra level of government are elected initially to various municipal counsels, they are not directly elected to deal with these issues. In fact someone who might have strong opinions and great strengths in dealing with the issues at the CRD, may never get to have input at that level unless they can convince the rest of their counsel to further vote them into that position.

Our region would be much better off having one city counsel, concerned about the entire region, making these decisions. Right now there is a significant probability that what ever happens, it will not be the best for us all, rather it will reflect political compromises to appease affected municipalities.

For example, when a suggestion is made that a single sewage plant located in Colwood might be best for the region, the response is not “lets consider that”. Rather, the immediate comments from the former Colwood Mayor are that it is “unacceptable” and that a much better model for treatment would involve smaller plants spread throughout the capital region.

We should have one to three elected counsels dealing with this issue. Not 13 independent entities voicing their “NIMBY” views, nor a result imposed by the un-elected CRD.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Volunteer Firefighters take a little longer when it is after hours

In March, 2009, the Saanich Pioneer Log Museum was the victim of arson in Central Saanich. The fire chief of the VOLUNTEER fire department, Ron French, is said to have commented: "Once we got there it didn't take us long [to put the fire out]." Though the response time was a little longer, being as it was after hours on a Friday night. "That's the volunteer program after hours," French explained.

The capital of the Province of British Columbia has some areas protected by volunteers. While those volunteers are without a doubt, dedicated and resourceful, one cannot help but wonder if a regional fire department, paid to protect us all, might not have a problem dealing with fires “after hours”.

Most of us travel throughout the Greater Victoria Area for work, pleasure, visiting, recreation, parties etc. It would be nice to know that we have a consistent level of professional fire and police assistance available throughout the area. However we do not.

Just another reason amalgamation would benefit us all.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Regional services for drug addicts? Not likely.

Apparently all the local drug addicts were either born in the City of Victoria or traveled from off island just to go there. Clearly, they have no connection to the other 12 local municipalities.

I say this as Dean Fortin has suggested that if we are going to have/need needle exchanges, they should also occur in areas like Saanich, Esquimalt and Langford. However, the other mayors are “not so sure.”

The mayor of Esquimalt would like to see “one central location.” The mayor of Saanich thinks there needs to be a lot more homework done and that he would not want to create a demand for it in Saanich. The mayor of Langford does not want to see what happened in Victoria, happen again, with too much demand and not enough money.

So the problem with our municipal system is obvious from this. Maybe we should have no needle exchange in the CRD. But if we are going to have a needle exchange system, then clearly one city would be best able to learn what should be done and implement the best practices possible to minimize the impact on all of us. This issue arises from people who come from each and every one of our 13 municipalities. Not long ago I woke up a fellow who seemed stoned and was sleeping in my parking spot down town. I asked where he was from and he told me “Sooke”. I asked why he did not get help from his family there and he told me “no one wants me”.

Why are we having to have numerous mayors even consider the issue? Such a waste of time and resources.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Good Government Should be Consistent

Secondary suites are illegal in Esquimalt. Victoria allows secondary suites, which must meet building and safety codes. Saanich does not allow secondary suites, although there were promises during the election.

The point? Whatever the right answer is, it should depend on zoning and be consistent in the area. One side of Harriet Road should not have different rights/obligations than the other side.

Mayor Barbara Desjardins is quoted as saying: "We want to stop this confrontational issue between neighbours."

I trust people realise that virtually every municipality has neighbours within a few feet who live in a totally different political jurisdiction. By having different laws in different areas you will promote confrontation.

Good government is one that works for all the local residents fairly and equally. We do not have that in the Capital of British Columbia.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Victoria City Advertising

I heard on the radio to day, an ad paid for by the City of Victoria regarding suiting your home to increase housing in the capital. It reminds me that each municipality will have to pay separately to advertise whatever issues they have, be it notification of meetings, new programs or issues of community interest. Yet the majority of the media in the area is directed at the entire region.

An ad on the radio, TV, or the Times Colonist is going to cost the same whether it is targeted at one city or 13. It would be far better if we were able to focus as a united group getting out one consistent message when relevant and saving some costs, both in money and effort.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Letters to Editor: Conserned over Airport Interchange

The TC published letters on April 13, 2009 expressing concern over the announcement that the Federal and Provincial Governments will be building a new interchange for the airport. All five letters were opposed.

One writer pointed out that Sidney town council in the 1990’s rejected an offer from the government to help build one at Beacon Avenue, yet now both Sidney and North Saanich residents are paying the price. Others argue the need is much higher for better regional transit, light rail, an overpass at McKenzie and Highway 1, or non-profit housing.

While not a full answer, one has to hope that one (or two) cities in the region might have had a far better plan and focus on what the region needed most at any time. The higher levels of government are looking at “shovel ready” projects. Certainly a unified city would have had planning set up on an ongoing basis, looking at issues that affect us all.

An interchange anywhere in the region affects those furthest away from it the most. Improving the flow of traffic along the Pat Bay Highway will allow those in Victoria to get home more safely from the ferry. Improving Highway 1 will facilitate the travel of someone returning from Costco or Thetis Lake, to Oak Bay.

Transportation is a fundamentally important regional issue, which will be better addressed by a unified City. Clearly, transportation issues, which for View Royal may be of little concern, are significant to its neighbours who must travel through it. Why would View Royal want to spend money to improve the travel needs of it neighbours?

The world is changing. Transportation issues are changing. We have only had cars for 100 years; how much longer is not clear. What is clear, is that an amalgamated city would be a far better organisation to plan and prepare us all for the future.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

April 11, 2009 Times Colonist: New spay-neuter rules for Central Saanich - SPCA hoped more municipalities would address stray-cat problem


“Animal advocates are disappointed only two municipalities in the Capital Regional District have adopted mandatory spaying and neutering regulations to deal with the "out-of-control" problem of stray cats.

Val Boswell, chairwoman of the Spay/Neuter Action Committee, said the fact only two municipalities are on board is disappointing considering her group approached nine of the 13 in the CRD. "We are going to have to regroup," she said. "There [are] a lot of municipalities that we could go back to."

Regardless of your opinion on cats, spaying, or the SPCA, you have to be outraged that an issue, which clearly, if relevant to one municipality is relevant to all, should have to be considered 13 times. You can see from this, that any one, no matter how useful the message might be, must spend 13 times as much energy and time to get their point across to local government, compared to the vast majority of other Canadians. This same problem will apply to people looking for assistance with the homeless, the arts, traffic issues, or recreation opportunities.

Good government for you would mean that if you had an issue to bring to the attention of the city, you could do so to one counsel at one time. You cannot do that in Greater Victoria.

Is more Government better Government?

Here is how the CRD compares in population and elected officials to some other places in Canada:

Victoria: 136 elected for 330,088 (as of 2006) estimated over 360,000 now

Toronto: 69 elected for over 2.5 million
Calgary: 22 elected for over one million
Winnipeg: 24 elected for 648,000
Vancouver: 27 elected for 580,000

It cannot be credibly argued that Greater Victoria needs/wants or benefits from such a high number of elected positions for our population. Good government is does not come simply from a lot of voices being "in charge". We need effective government for the region. This is accomplished by electing a reasonable number of people to consider the issues, the opinions and options, then make the best decisions for the area as a whole. It reminds me of the old adage, “too many cooks spoil the broth.”

Friday, April 10, 2009

Saanich Ignores fact that it is part of Greater Victoria

Sadly, we are able to ignore our obligations and stick it to our friends. On March 31, 2009 Saanich dropped a $107,000 contribution to the construction debt for the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. Can it seriously be thought that we in Saanich do not benefit from the Arena? Can it seriously be thought that Saanich has their own facility and should not share in a region one? Of course not.

Saanich council also turned down a $50,000 request from Victoria to help pay for festivities around the Olympic torch's arrival in the Inner Harbour. They then reluctantly offered $10,000.00. Mayor Frank Leonard and Councillor Paul Gerrard suggested that to contributing any funds to the October event, which includes a concert on the legislature lawn, would be of no benefit to taxpayers.

Obviously, this is wrong. Should we do anything for the Olympic torch? I do not know. But I do know that if we are going to, it should be supported by all of us. Alternatively, we as a region should have said we will do nothing. But to piece meal this so some contribute and others do not is wrong. Why might different counsels even have to spent time considering this 13 different times? We need to amalgamate.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Support Amalgamation

If you support the following idea:

“We, the undersigned, support the amalgamation of the municipality in which we live with some or all of the municipalities in the greater Victoria Region. We demand that the Province of British Columbia take steps to determine and implement the best organization of the 13 municipalities in the Greater Victoria Region to provide for less and better government."

Then sign the petition, on line at

The Points Raised in this Blog

To be clear, this blog will not address the most important issues of the day at all times. The plan is to read/listen to the news and regularly point out the, frankly, stupid results we achieve in our region by not being amalgamated.

Hopefully one day the Provincial Government will see that we too are entitled to good government here in the Capital Region.

Idling Cars - A regional issue

Idling longer than 3 minutes banned in Victoria - But politicians reject fines in favour of publicity campaign -- for now

So this is the headline on April 9, 2009 in the Times Colonist. Yet we then find out in the article, that: “The new CRD bylaw will co-exist with bylaws already enacted in Victoria and Langford, where requirements are similar.”

Every day I see reasons there needs to be amalgamation. This one is pretty clear. Two municipalities have already passed this law. Now those areas get the same law, twice. The same law, which their own politicians had to take the time to consider, vote on and pass, twice. CRD chairman Geoff Young has just voted on this at the CRD, after having dealt with the whole issue for the City of Victoria.

I am not going to comment on whether a bylaw restricting idling is good or bad. I am going to suggest it is a total waste of time to have two levels of government considering the same issue. If it is a good idea our region should adopt it. The issue should be considered once, by the city, and the results applied to all. We need to amalgamate.

Why a blog on amalgamation?

The plan is to regularly post the latest local issue that would be better resolved or affected if we were an amalgamated region of people, working together for the common good, rather than what currently exists - 13 municipalities without a common goal.

My objective is that eventually, the community on the Southern tip of Vancouver Island will be amalgamated into one to three cities, so that we can all benefit from good government, focused on the common good of us all.