Sunday, September 23, 2012
A Plan for the Amalgamation of Greater Victoria
The problem faced by the residents of Greater Victoria is that we do not receive the benefit of good government (specifically, the best governance that should reasonably be made available to an area our size). This becomes glaringly obvious when there are 13 municipalities and over 91 politicians governing approximately 360,000 people.
The reasonable solution is to amalgamate some or all of the municipalities into one, two or three cities.
The only way to amalgamate the cities is for the Province of British Columbia to do so by legislation. Each of the 13 municipalities exists only because the Province created them.
Historically the Province has only pursued an amalgamation, to the best to my knowledge, when a sufficient number of the residents in the area request it.
In 2003 I wrote to the Province of British Columbia and asked them to consider amalgamation in greater Victoria and the response from the Minister at the time (of the Liberal Government) was that they would only pursue amalgamation if requested to do so by the municipalities.
I then wrote to each municipality asking that they hold a referendum on the issue of amalgamation, in the next municipal election. None of them did so. Few even acknowledged receipt of the letter.
The reality of the municipal governments (except for the City of Victoria) actually asking for an amalgamation is realistically, nil.
Somehow we need to get the Province of British Columbia to actively pursue an amalgamation of some or all of the Greater Victoria Municipalities.
Based on the fact that, for the foreseeable future the Province is not going to hold a referendum on the issue and the municipalities are not going to hold a referendum on the issue, we have to hold a referendum without the cooperation of the current governments. It can be done.
Such a referendum can be held during the next municipal election in 2014.
We can hold a referendum by coordinating a group of people to market and run 13 candidates with a common, single-issue platform that has a clearly understood purpose, amalgamation. Voters who support the issue can then give one of their multiple votes to the amalgamation candidate in their area. The total votes will reflect the referendum. The process to achieve this is set out here.
Create a Political Party
We need to first create a political party named “Amalgamation-Yes”. The purpose of creating a political party is so that candidates, who are a member of the party, are able to have the words “Amalgamation-Yes” listed by their names on the ballot in the upcoming municipal election.
As a result, when the voter sees the ballet, they will clearly be able to identify the candidate who supports the issue.
“The Amalgamation-Yes Party represents citizens of Greater Victoria who support the amalgamation of the municipality in which they 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.”
We do not want to push for a certain form of amalgamation; for example, there being only one city, three cities, or something else. This is because that will split the issue. Somebody might support amalgamation into three cities but not support amalgamation into one. It is important that we acknowledge it is an amalgamation with one or more with the neighbouring municipalities. The mandate will be then to seek to have the Province determine what the best solution for the region will be and then implement it. We cannot get distracted on what the specific best scenario for the 13 municipalities is, at this time.
Candidates must run under the same platform in all municipalities. The advertising, signage, and message must be the same.
The very clear message must be:
“Please vote for our party only if you support the amalgamation of your municipality with one or more of your neighbouring municipalities. Do not vote for the party if you do not support amalgamation, even if you would otherwise like to see the candidate in office.”
This is important, as we will take the results of the election and present them to the Provincial Government and seek to have the Province study and implement the best way to govern the area based on the results of this election.
By making the message clear, we will be creating a referendum.
The message to the public (and the Provincial Government) must be clear that:
If you support amalgamation we seek only one of your votes for the candidate who is a member of Amalgamation-Yes. There will be other candidates you may support, but if you favour amalgamation please allocate one vote to an Amalgamation-Yes candidate.
Candidates would not run for Mayor. We need to ensure that people are voting for the amalgamation issue and not simply for a candidate. This is far more likely to occur when people are considering one of the many votes they have for counsellors, rather than the one vote they have for mayor.
By having party members run only for the position for councillor, we will generate a more accurate vote of those in favour of amalgamation.
All material published by candidates and the Amalgamation-Yes party will indicate that if sufficient candidates receive a high number of votes (which represent support of amalgamation) those results will be taken to the Provincial Government for action. We will show to the Government that:
1. The voters were asked to only vote for our candidates if they supported amalgamation or their municipality with one or more of their neighbours; and
2. The results, if as anticipated, are significant, will reflect that there is overwhelming support for some municipal reorganization in the Greater Victoria area.
By use of the party name, members of the public will be able to identify the candidate whether or not they remember the name of the individual in their municipality.
An important step will be for the party to identify thirteen (13) individuals to run, one (1) in each municipality under the banner of the Amalgamation-Yes party.
The party must approve each candidate. The individuals must be of good character, eligible to run in the relevant municipality, and fully support amalgamation of their municipality with one or more of the neighbouring municipalities.
They must also not “carry baggage”. Candidates who might win or lose for other reasons could be a problem. We need good people who can carry the message as cleanly as possible. The closer we can get to this the stronger the resulting message to the Provincial Government once they win.
Each candidate must be competent to fully perform the services of a municipal councillor. They need to be prepared to answer and deal appropriately with all municipal issues. During the election they will need to be able to answer questions in a way that makes it clear that they would help govern the municipality in a prudent and reasonable way. When elected they will have to do the job they are elected to for the current municipality, even though they support amalgamation. Because amalgamation will not occur immediately (if at all) the individuals must be and seem to be, otherwise good candidates to be elected to government.
It is important that there be only one (1) candidate in each municipality as a member of the Amalgamation-Yes party. This will ensure that the vote is not split. The objective here is not simply to get as many people as possible in favour of amalgamation elected to council but rather to create our own referendum.
Candidates, once they are identified and approved must be educated as to the other issues in their municipality. Successful candidates will still have to act as of members of the municipal council and deal with all issues that councils are required to address. We do not want supporters of amalgamation to vote against the candidate for fear that they will not be able to do a reasonably good job on all other issues in the municipalities. With that being said, it would also be very clear that in each municipality there would be sufficient council members to help carry the load of governance. Hence, the reason as well, that Amalgamation-Yes candidates will not run for the position of Mayor.
The messaging from all candidates must be the same. This creates a regional referendum and because our municipalities are so close there will be cross knowledge and advertising which needs to be consistent.
The party will require a President, Treasurer, Secretary, Marketing Chair, numerous Researchers, individual candidates, and perhaps others.
The party website would be set up with sufficient information as to the benefits of amalgamation that each of the candidates and the general public can access. There is currently the website www.lessgov.com which we can use for information and linking.
Subject to municipal and provincial requirements, which need to be determined, all candidates would fundraise together, such that funds would be pooled for advertising by the party, which will be the priority rather than as individuals.
Individual candidates will need to attend as many meetings as possible in their municipalities to get the message out.
Signage is going to be important and the signage must be all the same in each municipality, in fact, it need not even include the candidate’s name, rather “Amalgamation-Yes – If you support this issue - Vote for the Candidate in your Municipality”.
We need to have good researchers to identify all the benefits of amalgamation.
We also need to address the negatives of amalgamation.
We must develop answers to as many typical questions to municipal candidates as possible, incorporating how the issue could be addressed better if amalgamation were in place.
The key of course, is that amalgamation will provide for good government. We eliminate the CRD, we can act as one for the common good of all and we realise numerous benefits from actually being the City we are. We cannot simply suggest that there may be a cost savings. The possibility is that there may be an expense. Taxes might rise (hopefully not). We need to address this issue. The overall benefits will far exceed any increased cost.
The cost of party membership should be nominal, if anything, to get our numbers up with an encouragement for individuals to donate more money.
The party and candidates should be identified in the near future, prior to the Provincial election on May, 14 2013. We should bring this issue to the forefront for provincial candidates so that they acknowledge that if there are positive results of such a campaign, then the Government will seriously review the issue of amalgamation.
The initial steps are:
1. To call the first meeting of the Amalgamation-Yes party.
2. Identify the party executive who will commit to moving the issue forward through the next municipal election.
3. Create a process to approve appropriate candidates as well as how to remove inappropriate candidates.
4. Start identifying thirteen qualified candidates for the next municipal election.
5. Ask each municipality again, if they will hold a referendum on the issue of amalgamation. If any do, then we need not run a candidate in that city
6. Reach out to all other pro-amalgamation groups to join the party.
7. Start fundraising.
8. Start posting all relevant issues and responses regarding the issues of amalgamation.
9. Ensure that each candidate obtains sufficient members within their municipality for the party to be listed on the ballot.
10. Develop a comprehensive marketing plan including social media, traditional media, signage, and community contacts.
11. Develop a logo and website.
12. Address all negative comments quickly, competently, and accurately.
13. Acknowledge that contrary views are certainly possible and simply point out in a positive way why those views as expressed from time to time are in error.
14. After the election: we meet with the Provincial Government, taking to them the results and asking them to act on the mandate. Also each elected party member will seek to bring forward motions for their municipal governments to seek amalgamation with one of more of their neighbouring municipalities.
1. Initial Party meeting October 19, 2012.
2. Appointment of executive November 15, 2012.
3. Identify as many municipal candidates by January 31, 2013 (noting this will give us time as well to replace anyone who is unsuitable).
4. Ensure that a brochure is drafted early on with copies to all current members of government and, all candidates for provincial government, and all members of any new legislature in 2013.
Why is the project important? I think it is imperative to emphasis that the goal is to create good government in the region for the benefit of all. Simply put, an amalgamated city will be able to better govern in the interests of all the citizens and be able to move forward to provide a better life for all of us.
I do not emphasis the lessening of red tape and encouraging business growth. Clearly these will be desired results; however, the emphasis must be on the overall benefits of coordinated government, the strength in numbers, the influence of a cohesive voice to others, the mandate to move forward on issues that reflect the greater good of the region.
Amalgamation is not being pursued for business. However the citizens of Greater Victoria and the businesses that support the community will all benefit. By having a single city (or at least fewer), those who need affordable housing will have a better chance at getting it. Crime can be dealt with in a far more cohesive way. Parks can be identified and developed that benefit everyone and logically located to provide equal opportunities. Community facilities can be located by considering the use everyone will make of them rather than on which municipality wants to pay more. Tax benefits from the Provincial and federal governments can be obtained and benefit the region.
If you are retired, a single parent, government employee, or a business owner, your life in Greater Victoria will be improved through the existence of a municipal government focused on all of us, regardless of what side of the street you live on.
If you are interested in joining the party, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in assisting the party in some capacity such as executive, research, fundraising, or as a municipal candidate, please contact James Legh at email@example.com. Please include a resume to assist in determining how you can best assist the party.
Posted by James Legh