The District of Saanich is having second thoughts about amalgamating with one of its neighbours.
At a special council meeting on Monday, April 20, District of Saanich councillors will vote on a staff recommendation to cancel an amalgamation study with the City of Victoria as well as a non-binding joint Citizens’ Assembly between the two municipalities.
Saanich has allocated $250,000 for the Citizens’ Assembly. If the recommendation is approved, that money would be used to address financial issues within Saanich’s budget that arisen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The measure is supported by Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, who wrote in a letter to council that successfully managing a Citizens’ Assembly in addition to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is not “tenable.” He said the pandemic has taken a toll on everyone and that the money will be needed to address issues in the future.
“The economic impacts on Canada, British Columbia, Saanich and our region are immense. Businesses large and small are closing – some perhaps never to open again. Within Saanich and the region hotels, shops, services, eateries and more are closed,” Haynes wrote, adding. “In addition to concerns about their personal health and job losses, people are struggling to pay housing costs and support themselves and their families. Given this time of uncertainty it is incumbent on municipalities to use what levers they have to bring relief.
Haynes also said the move would remove additional uncertainties that could come if the Citizens’ Assembly were to recommend amalgamation.
“Decisions coming out of the Citizens’ Assembly – if amalgamation was the recommendation, would bring additional uncertainties possibly requiring a referendum on top of the uncertainty issues we are addressing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its recovery,” He wrote.
The Citizens’ Assembly was formed in 2018 after residents in both municipalities voted in favour of exploring the costs, benefits and disadvantages of amalgamation.
Monday’s virtual special council meeting takes place at 7 p.m.