Saanich is moving towards the creation of citizens’ assembly tasked with studying the pros and cons of amalgamating with the City of Victoria.
The municipality announced Wednesday that Mayor Fred Haynes has established a standing committee on the citizens’ assembly. “The standing committee will be the initial step in establishing the governance structure and mandate of an appointed citizens’ assembly as well as interface with the City of Victoria Council on the matter of exploring amalgamation,” says the municipality in a release.
Almost 67 per cent of voters in Victoria and almost 57 per cent of voters in Saanich on Oct. 20 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?”
Haynes will chair the standing committee. Couns.Judy Brownoff, Rebecca Mersereau and Colin Plant will serve as members.
“The standing committee will ensure we capture Saanich’s perspectives when we set up the citizens’ assembly, including recommendations on governance structure and mandate,” said Haynes. “We will work collaboratively on this process which is vital to the future of our community.”
Brownoff’s presence on the committee is notable insofar that she has been a vocal critic of the process leading up to the referendum.
Brownoff had previously questioned whether Saanich residents truly cared for amalgamation against the backdrop of other priorities. Brownoff is also the only returning councillor, who voted against the referendum question that voters in both communities approved. Plant and then-councillor Haynes had supported the ballot question.
It is expected that the committee will hold its first meeting in the coming weeks. It will expire when Saanich and Victoria have established a citizens’ assembly.