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What has happened to the Joint Citizens' Assembly initiative?

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FOCUS received the following submission from James Anderson, Chair of Amalgamation Yes, on April 18:


Amalgamation Yes concerned by District of Saanich attempt to cancel or defer joint citizens' assembly amalgamation study

On April 20, the District of Saanich will be discussing the cancellation or deferment of the Joint Citizens' Assembly (CA) initiative approved by both Victoria and Saanich electorate in 2018. 

This was a sudden and unexpected action, and a surprise to many. Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps was blindsided by the news and stated that there was much preliminary work that could continue, despite the current pandemic. She stated that the City of Victoria was prepared to continue this preliminary work.

Although claiming to be unbiased, the Mayor of Saanich is on the record as opposing the study, publicly calling it “the death of Saanich”.

A cynic might conclude this is an opportunistic move to derail the governance review process that the electorate has endorsed over two election cycles and 6 years of multiple polls.

We challenge any efforts by political opponents of studying amalgamation to use the virus to thwart any serious review of governance. To do so would be undemocratic and raise questions of authoritarianism.

As you are aware, it took over a year for the two municipalities just to agree on a Terms of Reference for the CA.

While we are all acutely aware of the Covid-19 health emergency, much of the work yet to be undertaken precedes the selection of interested resident volunteers for CA membership. Of course that resident selection must not occur until the pandemic abates.

There is no reason why the CA process could not proceed with the following activities: 

  • Send joint report to Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for joint funding, to augment the $250K authorized by the two electorates.  

  • Upon Provincial funding confirmation, draft RFPs for CA Facilitator and Technical Analyst. 

  • Create a Joint Council Committee to oversee preparation for the CA.

  • Issue RFPs for Facilitator and Technical Analyst. 

  • Receive and evaluate RFP responses and seek Councils' approval to sign contracts.

  • The CA Facilitator to prepare a plan and methodology for selection and evaluation of CA respondents.

  • We urge the District of Saanich to cooperate with the City of Victoria and proceed with preliminary work as outlined above. 

James (Jim) Anderson, Chair

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Guest James D Anderson

Fortunately at the April 20 Council defeated the motion in  support of the staff recommendations. Instead they confirmed support for continuation of the Citizen Assembly as strategic priority.  And they unanimously approved a motion to direct staff to meet with counterparts form Victoria and prepare  a joint workplan,  as suggested in our press release, in preparation for a meeting with Provincial officials. This will of course occur  at a time subsequent to when program and policy response to the pandemic allows.    

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  • 5 months later...
Guest Gene Miller

I am so looking forward to amalgamating our two families, James.  Sharing wives and kids, pets, homes, cars, money...gosh, everything.  I mean, who could imagine a better outcome?  Some people might argue, "but don't you have different histories, cultures, identities, purposes, priorities, characteristics?"  And what do we say to them, Jim?  We say: "Piffle."  And we say: "You're conveniently overlooking the operating efficiencies, the cost-savings, the, the upsides."

Yes, I've read a lot of the Canadian post-municipal amalgamation studies and literature confirming that imagined efficiencies and cost savings--one of the principal spurs for pro-amalgamators--rarely happen, but who believes those biased reports written by people who want amalgamation to fail?  Besides, we'll do it better, and different from all the others.  Those people don't understand that we have the amalgamation idea in our minds, and that we are planning to take the idea that's up in our minds and make it real in the world.  After all, that process has a long history of success.

Gosh, as I write, I'm beginning to lose my commitment to amalgamating our two families.  It suddenly occurs to me that the legibility of my group "story" might be more important than I realized, and that maybe all of my energy as a participant should be based on an ever-greater investment in that story; and that, to that end, smaller is better, and an aid to coherence and the accessibility of meaning (which is elusive under the best of circumstances).

Yeah, more I think about it, the more I believe I shoud just hoe my own row.

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