MAYOR’S MESSAGE: Citizen’s assemblies deserve a chance to do their work

Lisa Helps hopes for ‘yes’ vote in question about further exploration of City, Saanich amalgamation

In November 2014 the City of Victoria, along with many others in the region, put a question on the election ballot asking residents about amalgamation. Victoria asked, “Are you in favour of reducing the number of municipalities in Greater Victoria through amalgamation?” The overwhelming response was “Yes.”

After the election we waited for the provincial government to take some kind of action. It was a long time coming; it resulted in a study and report that looked at the current state of regional services. Nothing on amalgamation.

Interestingly, it was the District of Saanich’s citizen-led governance review that has moved us a little bit closer towards an actual exploration of the topic, at least for their municipality and ours. The citizen panel recommended that Saanich invite all willing municipalities to participate in a provincially-funded citizens assembly on amalgamation. So far, only Victoria has expressed an interest.

A citizens assembly brings together a randomly selected group of people in a process facilitated by a neutral “process expert” to explore a difficult topic. Duncan and North Cowichan recently convened one to explore the costs and benefits of amalgamation. A citizens assembly process in Victoria and Saanich is a good way to address the advantages and disadvantages of amalgamation.

Citizens assemblies are a good way to work together in a deep and meaningful way. Peter McLeod, the consultant who led the Duncan-North Cowichan process said, “The problem isn’t that we ask too much of people, it’s that we ask too little.” A citizens assembly that explores the costs, advantages and disadvantages of the amalgamation of Victoria and Saanich will create a genuine opportunity to harness the intelligence, energy and goodwill of the community.

But it will do more than this. The larger benefit of a citizens assembly is that while it will contribute to settling the amalgamation question – at least between Saanich and Victoria – it will also give us a new tool for citizens and governments to work together to solve complex problems in an efficient and effective way; these processes never last more than a year at the very most.

Finally, a citizens assembly is an chance to practice more civil public dialogue when discussing heated issues. It’s a true opportunity for deliberation. It requires listening to other points of view, putting ourselves in each other’s shoes. A citizens assembly is an opportunity to remind ourselves as a community that compromise does not mean capitulation and that changing one’s mind after listening to another perspective is not a sign of weakness.

The next step in the process is for Saanich and Victoria to meet together and determine a clear ballot question that will be asked by both on Oct. 20. My hope is that we’ll get an overwhelming “Yes” and that the citizens of our two communities can begin a rich, deliberative, thoughtful process and make some recommendations on the topic of the amalgamation of Victoria and Saanich, one way or another.

Lisa Helps is Mayor of the City of Victoria.

Just Posted

Victoria teen killed by falling tree, remembered as hero

Tai Caverhill was the first to spot the tree falling towards him and his friends

Victoria woman in L.A. hospital after she was run over twice

Lynn Phillips has suffered from multiple broken bones and internal bleeding

Tiny Yorkshire terrier Poppie survives days on remote island

ROAM rescue crews, family searched for dog, missing in Saanich for days

Researchers say ‘text neck’ causing bone spurs to grow from millenials’ skulls

Technology use from early childhood causing abnormal bone growths in 41 per cent of young adults

VIDEO: Performers awe crowds at 2019 Indigenous Cultural Festival

Dancers and singers from First Nations across B.C. gather in Victoria

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Canadian communities responding to climate change

New research highlights state of local adaptation planning in Canada

B.C. judge defies lawyers and adds six months to man’s sex assault sentence

‘I find the joint submission is contrary to the public interest and I’m rejecting it’

Man presumed dead after boat capsizes in Columbia River

Search and rescue efforts recovered a life jacket

Crews fight wildfire along Sea-to-Sky Highway

A cause has not been determined, although a downed power line is suspected

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Most Read