Should the District of North Vancouver and City of North Vancouver join as one municipality?
While some people who don’t live on the North Shore may be unaware that there are actually two North Vancouvers, the pair are completely separate municipalities with their own mayors, councils and bylaws.
That’s something some North Shore politicians want to see changed. At the District of North Vancouver’s Monday council meeting, they’re taking what could be the first baby steps toward amalgamating the two cities.
“For years there’s been a feeling in North Vancouver that we would be better as one municipality, it only makes sense,” District of North Vancouver Coun. Roger Bassam said on CKNW’s The Lynda Steele Show.
He and his colleagues will vote on a proposal to publish an open letter to the residents of the two North Vancouvers making the case for the merger.
They’ll also vote on hiring an independent contractor to conduct a survey of residents to determine their feelings about the idea.
The budget for advertising and collecting the public feedback would be just under $23,000.
“We just feel we can do a better job dealing with these challenges as one municipal government and having one point of accountability for our citizens,” he said.
The report going to council on Monday lays out several reasons why the district believes a unified North Vancouver would be more effective, including transportation and housing planning decisions, and a stronger voice in dealing with regional and higher levels of government.
However, not everyone loves the idea.
A formal letter from the district to the City of North Vancouver asking it to join the study was discussed at the city’s council meeting last week.
Council referred the idea to staff, but attached a stringent set of conditions — including that the city’s lower tax rate, surpluses and service levels be protected in any study of amalgamation.
It’s not the first time the merger idea has been floated — in 1968, a referendum on the idea failed, despite overwhelming support from district residents.
In 2014, the district commissioned a citizens’ Blue Ribbon Committee to look at the idea, which identified the scope of issues associated with amalgamation.
The city subsequently researched other municipal mergers, including the successful joining of Abbotsford and Matsqui, and the in-process merger of Duncan and North Cowichan.
Bassam said the district still wants to collect more information, including from the City of North Vancouver, which he characterized as frosty to the idea.
“Like a good dance, you need willing dance partners,” he said.
“We need the information from the city, we need to understand would be the benefit, what would be the costs going forward for us to make this decision as a community.”
Monday’s motion — if approved — would only authorize the open letter and survey, and Bassam suggested a merger would be years away if there was an appetite for it.
“We’re going to publish an invitation to all the residents of North Vancouver, and… contract with the consulting company to conduct the survey,” he said.
“Hopefully the results of the survey are clear and we have a mandate that’s given to the elected officials in North Vancouver, both the district and the city that says go forth and explore this.”