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.