The future shape of the citizens’ assembly charged with exploring “the costs, benefits and disadvantages” of amalgamating Saanich and Victoria will be back in the public spotlight later this month.
The respective committees from both communities charged with the overseeing the creation of said forum will hold a joint meeting on July 22.
While the agenda of this meeting is not yet available, likely subjects include the size of the future assembly, as the two committees seek to reconcile the respective terms of reference that the municipalities had hashed out during the past few months.
Saanich proposes an assembly of 100 members, while Victoria’s terms of reference calls for an assembly of 49 members.
Also uncertain is the question of whether the assembly’s final report should include a final ‘Yes/No’ recommendation to the respective councils on “proceeding” towards a referendum. Saanich council struck this requirement from its proposed terms of references, while Victoria’s terms of reference has retained it.
Other issues that require resolution include the number of meetings, as well as the nature and level of their public accessibility.
Saanich council in May also passed a resolution that on the four members of Saanich’s standing committee on the citizens’ assembly to bring back “any issues of disagreement, so Saanich council can deliberate” if “serious discussions” with Victoria failed to reach agreement.
Saanich’s committee consists out of Mayor Fred Haynes, as well as Couns. Judy Brownoff, Colin Plant, and Rebecca Mersereau.
While Haynes said earlier this year that this limitation might require an additional meeting of the committee with its Victoria counterparts, the magnitude of the situation requires the full input of council. Saanich residents expect council to proceed with care and due diligence, he said.
Once both communities have reconciled and approved the terms of reference for the citizen’s assembly, attention will shift towards the third actor in this process: the provincial government, as it will have to approve the shape of the assembly.
This entire process is underway following last year’s municipal election, when almost 67 per cent of voters in Victoria and almost 57 per cent of voters in Saanich voted in favour of the non-binding referendum question on their election ballot: “Are you in favour of spending up to $250,000 for establishing a Citizens’ Assembly to explore the costs, benefits, and disadvantages of the amalgamation between the District of Saanich and the City of Victoria?”