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Victoria, Saanich take baby steps towards amalgamation

Victoria and Saanich explore municipality merger
The municipalities of Victoria and Saanich have laid the groundwork to look into the pro's and con's of amalgamation. Brad MacLeod reports.

Could the City of Victoria and District of Saanich one day be one municipality?

That possibility came one step closer on Wednesday when Saanich approved joint terms of reference for a citizens’ assembly exploring the idea of a merger.

Victoria’s council green-lit the terms last month.

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The terms, which took a year to develop, lay out the mandate and governance structure for an eventual assembly composed of 75 randomly selected citizens.

That group will be charged with making a non-binding recommendation to the two municipalities, which could range from deals to find efficiencies or mutual agreements to full-on amalgamation into one city.

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Doug Ford discusses possible amalgamation in Niagara
Doug Ford discusses possible amalgamation in Niagara

“As the elected leaders of Saanich, the job of Mayor and Council is to look after the best interests of our community and our residents,” said Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes in a media release.

“A decision of this magnitude must be well-considered and not rushed.”

The two municipalities are now asking the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to fund one third of the $750,000 budget for the citizens’ assembly. Victoria and Saanich would divide the remaining cost between themselves.

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The ministry must also review and approve the terms of reference, a process with no timeline.

Saanich and Victoria are the largest two of 13 municipalities in the capital region, an area with a population just under 400,000 people.

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Both Victoria (66 per cent) and Saanich (56 per cent) voted to initiate the assembly process in the 2018 municipal election.