Vernon’s outgoing mayor is cautioning the next council to stay friendly with the neighbours.
A Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce survey indicates virtually all city mayoralty and councillor candidates favour an amalgamation study for Greater Vernon. However, Rob Sawatzky says that could create challenges once some of them are elected.
“It’s an issue all candidates should think about,” he said of potential friction with Coldstream and the electoral areas.
“Be responsible about your statements. You must deal with the realities of the day and the reality is there are no willing partners at this point.”
Sawatzky says Vernon must work with the other jurisdictions on a number of key issues such as water and culture.
“I always thought the best policy was to give residents a say (on governance) but it doesn’t make sense to spend public money on it when the stance of the neighbours and the provincial government makes it clear: it (study) won’t proceed.”
The chamber defends asking candidates where they stand on Greater Vernon governance.
“Our members have long supported a move towards amalgamation as a means to streamline local government and make the region`s many local governments more efficient in responding to the opportunities for economic development,” sad Dan Rogers, general manager.
“We’re pleased to see the overwhelming majority candidates in Vernon are willing to keep an open mind on the topic and we hope other jurisdictions will follow suit.”
Rogers added that a study on the potential benefits of amalgamation or other governance models could resolve the issue once and for all.
All seven Coldstream councillor candidates have come out against amalgamation.
“Let’s get on with doing business within the structure we have,” said Jim Garlick, who has been acclaimed as Coldstream mayor.
Garlick, though, isn’t surprised that Vernon candidates are taking a pro-study stance during the election.
“They see it as a popular thing without thinking it fully through,” he said, adding that some candidates may change their mind once they are elected and begin to understand the current governance model.
Mike Macnabb, BX-Silver Star director, dismisses the chamber’s call for a study.
“Vernon can’t afford what it has now,” he said, adding that taxes will go up if Vernon takes over the cost of rural roads and policing.
“If fiscal responsibility is what they (chamber) are looking at, they are going about it the wrong way.”
Macnabb also says that larger municipal structures generally have numerous employees.
Responses to questions presented to the Vernon candidates can be found at www.vernonchamber.ca.