The process that could lead to the amalgamation of Victoria and Saanich is moving forward after councillors representing Saanich and Victoria held two meetings to reconcile their respective terms of reference for the citizens assembly tasked to explore the issue. They will now undergo further review and possible revisions (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Future forum studying amalgamation of Saanich and Victoria could end up 73 members strong

Figure emerged during two meetings reconciling terms of reference for citizens’ assembly

As Saanich and Victoria continue to work out the details of the citizens’ assembly tasked with exploring the “costs, benefits and disadvantages” of amalgamation, their respective councils will consider a suggestion for an assembly with no more than 73 members.

This figure emerged during the second meeting of the joint citizens’ assembly standing committee held Friday featuring members of Saanich and Victoria council charged with reconciling their municipality’s respective terms of reference for the citizens assembly. The group had met earlier Monday last week.

The size of the proposed assembly has been a major sticking point, with Saanich arguing for a larger assembly with 100 members, with 57 members coming from Saanich and 43 from Victoria, and Victoria arguing a smaller number with 49 members, with 28 coming from Saanich, 21 from Victoria.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said Victoria favours the smaller number on the basis of previous best practices based on citizens assemblies elsewhere in Canada and around the world. Experts, she said, have identified a figure anywhere 46 and 50 members to “be reasonable,” even when dealing with subjects as large as the future of health care in Ontario. “It’s a manageable number,” said Helps.

RELATED: Process to create citizens assembly studying Saanich-Victoria amalgamation set to resume

Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff, citing among other supporting evidence a long email from Saanich Coun. Colin Plant, said Saanich believes that a larger assembly would not only ensure adequate representation of various sociological groups and views, but also improve accountability given the aim of the assembly. A skilled facilitator would also be able to manage a larger group, she added.

This discussion also revealed deeper philosophical differences among Saanich and Victoria members of the committee, with Helps arguing that the assembly aims to be a deliberative body, rather than a representative body.

Saanich Coun. Nathalie Chambers responded to Helps by saying that Saanich councillors had promised residents that the assembly would reflect the greater diversity of Saanich in protecting their democratic voice.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes picked up on point.

“We have heard from the Victoria side that it is not supposed to be a representative democracy, but it is supposed to be deliberative democracy in the citizens’ assembly,” he said. “If the proportionate representation is removed, what is the value?” He later added to this point by noting that Saanich residents need to have “faith” in the validity of process given that it could end up leading to end of Saanich as a municipality. “This is a serious matter,” he said.

RELATED: Saanich and Victoria committees disagree over size of assembly studying amalgamation

Another related point of disagreements concerns the decision-making mechanics of the assembly.

Victoria Coun. Sarah Potts said the combination of a larger assembly using Robert’s Rules as proposed by Saanich would discourage participation, because the number of people familiar with the rules would likely be low. Chambers disagreed. Robert’s Rules could actually give the process structure, she said.

In the end, committee members picked on comments from Victoria Coun. Geoff Young to split the difference between the two numbers and propose it to the respective councils.

Stressing their lack to mandate the negotiate the figure, Haynes said Saanich representatives would take the suggestion to the full council.

“We are not able today to talk to the merits [of any number],” he said. “However, understanding that you have moved forward on the number is very encouraging.”

This figure, along with a host of other changes, will now go back to the respective councils for review, following preparation of a final document that captures the work of the committee. This review may either lead to additional changes or a joint terms of reference document approved by both councils ready for provincial review.

The public also heard during Friday’s meeting that the province had verbally agreed to contribute up to $250,000 towards the citizens’ assembly pending approval of the terms of reference.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Someone knows something’: a look into Vancouver Island missing persons with interactive map

There are more than three dozen people listed as missing throughout Vancouver Island

Saanich bylaw sparks EV charging infrastructure requirements in new builds

All new developments to be EV-charger compatible starting Sept. 1

Summer program helps Greater Victoria teens sharpen writing skills

Registration for the program runs until Aug. 17

Langford cuts red tape, engages in random acts of kindness to uplift spirits

‘I Am Langford’ campaign promotes supporting local

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Shellfish industry get funds to clean up at Island sites and beyond

Businesses can apply to cover half of costs to clean up so-called ‘ghost gear’

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

Most Read