Current mayors disagree with former mayors about Comox Valley amalgamation

Former Comox Valley mayors want the Province to amalgamate the three local municipalities and a large area of the regional district.

A quartet of former Comox Valley mayors are calling on the Province to amalgamate the three local municipalities and a large area of the regional district.

Former Cumberland mayors Fred Bates and Bronco Moncrief, and former Courtenay mayors Ron Webber and Greg Phelps want immediate action rather than more study.

“The timing is perfect,” says Bates, noting amalgamation would make the Valley the third-largest Island municipality. “If the Province led the amalgamation process starting immediately, we could go to the polls next November and elect the first truly regional government for the area.”

The mayors envision an elected body comprised of three Courtenay councillors, two from Comox, one from Cumberland, one from areas of the CVRD and two at-large councillors. The mayor would be elected at large or by the entire Valley.

“Their primary role would be to transition into one larger, more effective group,” Phelps said. “This would take special skills as well as people who are big-picture thinkers. It’s just common sense.”

Bates says Moncrief, who is dealing with health issues, fought for years to keep Cumberland separate. Recently, however, he has realized the only way for the village to thrive is to become part of a larger entity.

“He came to recognize that it doesn’t make sense to have all three municipalities as well as the CVRD going hat in hand to Victoria and Ottawa for various grants when one stronger voice would be heeded,” said Bates, who claims there is little opposition because most people feel there is too much government in the Valley.

The three current mayors have a different take on the issue. For one thing, says Comox Mayor Paul Ives, the Community Charter does not allow for mandated amalgamation.

“Unless the Province is going to change its legislation, it’s something that’s going to require more of a consensus-based approach,” he said. “At this point, to ask the Province to essentially legislate a shotgun wedding I don’t think is a wise move.”

Ives recalls amalgamation was voted down in 1999. Courtenay was in favour while Comox was against, as were outlying areas. Cumberland was not part of it at the time.

Ives said the former mayors’ idea does not include a business-case analysis, which he feels is necessary because amalgamation would create issues for Comox, such as increased policing costs.

“That hit alone would be huge to residents,” said Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird, noting the Village does not pay for policing while Comox pays 70 per cent of local policing costs.

Phelps suggests a Valley-wide approach could spread the cost evenly and fairly.

“Amalgamation made sense 20 years ago and it makes a lot more sense today,” he said.

“There’s nothing imminent about it for us,” countered Ives, noting Comox is several years from reaching a population threshold of 15,000, at which time the town would pay 90 per cent of policing costs. “We have to be careful what we wish for sometimes.”

Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula supports the principal of less government. He agrees one or perhaps two levels of local government would ring louder with senior governments, but says the big question is how and when that comes to pass.

“I also don’t think that ramming it down people’s throats with no discussion is going to solve anything,” Jangula said. “What it’s going to do is cause a lot of anger and a lot of resentment.”

He suggests a future possibility might be one central municipality and a district municipality.

“I think the public has to buy into this; that’s the bottom line,” Jangula said.

Bates says there are positives that need to be explored such as protecting the environment. With amalgamation, he said the Valley could have one water system and one city hall.

“It is time to work together and rationalize all of our services. We don’t need separate fire departments, public works, planning and many others.”

Ives questions if Comox would end up with a full-time fire department. Each municipality, he notes, has a volunteer department with a few full-time paid staffers.

“I would venture to guess it may be difficult to retain volunteers if you had a Comox Valley-wide fire department,” Ives said. “That cost is quite significant.

“It doesn’t mean we can’t work together,” he added, noting shared services such as water and sewer.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

Just Posted

Moms of those killed by illicit opioids take to B.C. Legislature in call for action

Moms Stop the Harm, a nationwide network of families who have lost loved ones to overdoses rally

Taxing Vancouver Island

Big Read: find out which communities are paying the lowest and highest taxes on Vancouver Island

Y2K Spitfire comes home

Stocky Edwards guest of honour at banquet

Crown Isle acquires Longlands Golf Course

The Crown Isle Resort and Golf Community just got a little bit… Continue reading

Heliports certified at Comox Valley, Campbell River hospitals

Both sites should see heliports up and running by late summer

VIDEO: Canadian toddler caught practising hockey skills in crib

Eli Graveline is getting praise from far and wide as the internet freaks out of cute throwback video

Amalgamation fails in North Cowichan and Duncan

North Cowichan says yes, but Duncan says no

B.C. teacher ends Jeopardy! winning streak, taking home US$69,000

Ali Hasan, from New Westminster, has been gaining fans as a “one-man invasion,” says Alex Trebek

Jett Woo highlights 5 Canucks choices on Day 2 of NHL entry draft

WHL star out of Moose Jaw tabbed in Round 2

Lawyer fired in B.C. courtroom during trial for dangerous driving causing death

Dustin Dennis Zinter was charged following November 2015 accident near Nanaimo, B.C.

In a matter of hours, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive

Change was announced as a royal decree in 2017 by Crown Prince Mohammen bin Salman

Feds announce measures to protect endangered whale species

Canada’s Whale Initiative is part of the federal government’s $1.5 billion Ocean Protection Plan

COC session vote approves Calgary as potential host for 2026 Olympics

Scott Hutcheson, chair of Calgary’s Olympic bid corporation — called vote a positive step forward

Mounties seize 1,500 pot plants in ‘extensive Shawnigan raid

Mounties searched a property in the 4800-block of Goldstream Heights Drive on May 30

Most Read