News

Langford will seek residents' views on amalgamation study

Arnold Lim

News Gazette staff

Langford has said "yes" to adding a question regarding amalgamation on the ballots for Nov. 15.

Residents will have an opportunity to vote on a non-binding question gauging interest in a study on amalgamation, after Langford council approved placing the question to municipal election ballots for the fall election.

"We looked at it in the past and thought there is no harm in asking the question and letting people give their opinion," said Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell. "I would be interested in seeing the results. (But) from my look around the region, I don't know how we would lessen people's taxes in Langford, which would be the only way we would (support it)."

Blackwell said Langford actually supported looking at amalgamation with Colwood about seven years ago, but in the end Colwood said no.

Earlier this year Langford council announced it would put a question on the ballot if there were 75 per cent of the 13 municipalities in the Capital Regional District planning to do so. Council decided to take out the "caveat" and put an as-yet undetermined question on the ballot, in an effort to gather as much information as possible, Blackwell said.

Capital Region Municipal Amalgamation Society vice-chair John Vickers applauded the move.

"I think to show the leadership they are showing is absolutely terrific. At the end of the day it's the people that win when they are extended an opportunity to express how they feel about wanting a study on amalgamation for the region," he said. "With Langford and Central Saanich last evening (Sept. 2) approving a question, we (hope to) see other councils follow."

Currently three municipalities – Victoria is the other – have approved putting a non-binding referendum question on the ballot. However, the wording for the questions could be different on each ballot. Central Saanich, for example, will ask residents if they support asking the province to do a cost-benefit analysis on amalgamation of the municipality with Sidney and North Saanich.

Vickers said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen has expressed some interest in putting it on his municipality's ballots if there is enough support from other jurisdictions.

July figures from an Angus Reid poll commissioned by the society showed that 89 per cent of the CRD voters polled supported having a non-binding question on amalgamation as part of the municipal election in November.

"All we have really wanted right from the outset is to allow people to express their view, and if they are not interested that is okay and if they are, they are," Vickers said.

"With all regional issues from sewage and transit, it is about coming together and hopefully the citizens from across the region will have an opportunity to express their view."

alim@goldstreamgazette.com

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