News on the amalgamation front has been fast and furious this week.
Council in two more municipalities, most notably Langford, but also Central Saanich, voted to put a form of question relating to the further study of amalgamation on the ballot for the 2014 civic election.
Representatives from Amalgamation Yes can be excused for rubbing their hands together with a degree of satisfaction, having seen their many months of effort rewarded with buy-in from two of the three largest jurisdictions in the Capital Region.
This week Langford officially changed its mind about waiting to see whether 75 per cent of all area municipalities were going to put a question on their ballots. In our minds, Langford has never been a “follower” type of municipality, rather a leader in getting things done progressively.
We’d like to think that conversations with residents helped turn the tide. Not to mention reminders from staff that any question placed on the ballot, simply to take the public’s temperature on a further investigation of some form of amalgamation, need not be binding and wouldn’t legally require them to take steps toward such a move.
Which is not to say municipalities can be flippant about this exercise in democracy, trying it on for size like a pair of shoes. It still requires serious thought about what areas of integration might benefit residents, which comes with costs for staff time on top of added printing expenses.
A big part of the equation is the wording of the question. It can be as open and general, or specific and detailed as desired, depending on what municipalities hope to achieve with this initial inquiry. In essence, there’s really not a lot to lose by putting a question on the ballot, outside of slightly distracting voters from their primary task of electing their councils.
Whether other West Shore municipalities will follow Langford’s lead is anyone’s guess. But if up-and-comer Colwood says yes to a ballot question, we believe others around the region will look seriously at changing their minds, like Langford did and simply ask, why not?