A local group seeking “more effective and accountable local government” has new leadership.
Saanich resident James Anderson was named the new chair of Amalgamation Yes during the group’s annual general meeting on June 8, replacing Shellie Gudgeon, a former Victoria city councillor, who held the position for about two years. Colin Nielsen of Oak Bay will continue as the group’s vice-chair.
This change in leadership comes as Saanich and Victoria move into the next phase of the process that emerged after 67 per cent of voters in Victoria and 57 per cent of voters in Saanich voted in favour of the non-binding referendum question on their 2018 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?”
The process to create said citizens assembly moved a step closer when Saanich council last month endorsed its version of the proposed terms of reference for the forum with both communities now preparing to reconcile their respective terms of reference.
Anderson reiterated Amalgamation Yes’ commitment that it will neither attempt to participate nor influence the assembly itself. Its focus will lie instead on ensuring that the process unfolds free of interference from elected officials. “But that does not mean that we will lobby for a potential position,” he said. “We just want a fair and honest assessment,” he said earlier.
Several issues remain unresolved. They include the eventual size of the citizens’ assembly, its meeting frequency, and perhaps above all, the financial commitment of the province.
Both Saanich and Victoria have committed up to $250,000 towards the assembly. Anderson said the assumption has always been that the province would always match that funding, but that remains to be seen.