CHARLA HUBER: Smalltown feel lost in amalgamation

Small community councils have more of a connection with residents

When I was 10, I wanted to be a politician.

I had mapped out my career in the footsteps of then-Alberta premier Ralph Klein. I would start as a journalist and move my way into politics. I became the journalist, but I am no longer interested in becoming the first female prime minister. That same year Kim Campbell crushed that dream.

I grew up in Calgary and the only municipal government model I knew was having one mayor and a council of aldermen.

After school one day, my little fourth-grade self walked to my alderman’s office and asked him to talk to my class. I was amazed he actually came. It was Dale Hodges, and as I Google his name, I find he is Calgary’s longest-serving alderman, having earned that title after 28 years.

When I first moved to Victoria about 10 years ago, I found it interesting that I could leave my Esquimalt apartment and within a 25-minute walk, stroll through a couple municipalities.

It was hard to believe there were so many districts, municipalities, towns and cities within Greater Victoria. It seemed a bit wacky to someone coming from one big city with only one mayor.

I was naïve.

When I became a reporter for Black Press five years ago, I began to cover and follow municipal politics. There was no end to the juicy things that happened at a Metchosin council meeting.

I watched Coun. Bob Gramigna help people connect to city water and share his own experience with the issue.

Once, Metchosin council even wagered on the results of a non-binding referendum question. As the outcome was read, each member of council pulled a six-pack of beer out from under the table and passed it to the winner, Coun. Larry Tremblay.

I’ve attended meetings where it was standing-room only and where residents all wore red bandanas in support of a community house.

If you want to witness the heart of small town politics, go to a Highlands council meeting in its heritage school house. Before the meeting starts they pass around a candy dish where you can grab a toffee or two.

If the region’s 13 municipalities were to amalgamate into one large body, a lot would be lost.

The municipalities work well as they are because of the amount of representation they have. I fear what would happen if, for instance, there was only one voice from Highlands trying to explain the needs of its community to larger urban municipalities.

It’s refreshing to know the councillors and see them in the community practising what they preach. I live in Langford and often see Coun. Lillian Szpak riding her bicycle to community events or just for fun. I know that when she is at the council table, she is pushing for more bike lanes and connecting trails in Langford.

Residents choose which community they live in based on their own beliefs and principles, and sometimes on the direction of their municipality’s official community plan.

While there are a number of reasons for amalgamating, such as cutting down on administrative costs, will the savings really amount to much?

We all choose what we are willing to spend more money on, but at the end of the day, quality determines where my money goes.

If you check the stipends municipal councillors earn compared to the number of  meetings they attend, it’s obvious they aren’t in it for the cash.

Charla Huber is a reporter with the Goldstream News Gazette.

charla@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

Jada Benwell and Connor Larkey are the valedictorians of the 2021 graduating class at Parkland Secondary School. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Pandemic taught lessons in perseverance for North Saanich high schoolers

Parkland Secondary School to release 2021 grad ceremony video on June 25

The 14th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (YES) awards June 3. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay celebrates its Young Exceptional Stars with outdoor award ceremony

Nine young people recognized in 14th annual awards

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read