Mayor keen to investigate ‘A’-word

A local politician says Greater Vernon governance should be reviewed simply to clear the air

A local politician says Greater Vernon governance should be reviewed simply to clear the air.

Rob Sawatzky, Vernon mayor, insists a study into amalgamation would determine whether the benefits of merging four jurisdictions would outweigh any possible negatives.

“It’s been the elephant in the room for some time,” he said.

“Sometimes studies show no net financial benefit but some citizens will say a streamlined governance process may be worth it.”

The Greater Vernon Governance Society has 2,930 signatures on a petition asking local and provincial authorities to develop a plan to combine area jurisdictions into a single entity.

“We believe this is a significant and credible survey of the entire community,” said Bruce Shepherd, society president.

Sawatzky won’t say where he personally stands on the issue of amalgamation.

“I can’t make up my mind without the necessary information. I wouldn’t want to make an uninformed decision,” he said.

Of the 2,930 names, 2,032 are from Vernon, 611 from Coldstream and 287 from the two electoral areas. There are 31,693 total voters in Vernon, 7,424 in Coldstream and 5,550 in Areas B and C.

However, the society states a more important factor to consider is how many people voted in 2011 civic elections.

Using that formula,  the number of signatures compared to the election turnout is 25.3 per cent in Coldstream, 22.9 per cent in Vernon and 23.7 in the electoral areas (no 2011 election so based on 2013 referendum results).

The turnout for April’s sports complex referendum was 19.5 per cent.

“It says that there is more interest in dealing with this matter than many would have anticipated,” said Shepherd.

Sawatzky was hoping to see a petition with at least 10 per cent of total registered voters.

“It (petition) is an indication of interest but one could debate the strength of the interest,” he said.

Jim Garlick, Coldstream mayor, isn’t impressed with the petition.

“They fell short of their 4,000 names and this is just six per cent of the total voters,” he said.

“I don’t think people are all fired up about this.”

The society will urge local officials to push ahead with a study and ultimate referendum on amalgamation, and Garlick says his council will consider the request.

The society has also discussed the matter with the provincial government but MLA Eric Foster and Premier Christy Clark have both stated that amalgamations are not forced.

“They are presumptuous on the clout they carry with the numbers they have,” said Garlick of the society.

Bob Fleming, BX-Swan Lake director, will review the petition results.

“It’s uninspiring. They spent that much time and got 2,930 names,” he said.

“But I have to look at it because they got close to 3,000 people signed. The jurisdictions will have to sit down and discuss whether we should proceed to the next stage.”

Fleming says he is not opposed to a restructure study as a way of providing residents information.

Mike Macnabb, BX-Silver Star director, points out that of the 2,930 names on the petition, 898 are from outside of the city.

“It’s not overwhelming support from the other jurisdictions to join Vernon,” he said.

“The government will not force amalgamation so to me, it sounds like it has failed. It (petition) doesn’t represent the needs and desires of people in a jurisdiction.”

The petition continues to accept names online.

 

“The society looks forward to developing the next steps in the process to meet our objective with local and provincial authorities in the coming days and weeks,” said Shepherd.