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.