Province won’t fund amalgamation study

Vernon’s attempts to fuel the amalgamation debate appear to have failed

Vernon’s attempts to fuel the amalgamation debate appear to have failed.

On Monday, city council unanimously voted to ask the provincial government to commence a study to determine the most efficient and cost-effective governance model for Greater Vernon, including the current structure.

However, that appears unlikely.

“We will not fund a study unless all parties involved want to do it,” said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, who spoke to Community Development Minister Coralee Oakes Tuesday about the city’s actions.

Coldstream and Areas B and C have indicated opposition to a review of amalgamation.

“It’s difficult to do a study if all jurisdictions are not participating,” said Foster.

As part of its decision, Vernon council will ask the three other jurisdictions to support its request to the government for a study.

Also, council has decided, in principle, to ask Vernon voters in the November civic election if the city should pursue the creation of a restructure committee and it will encourage Coldstream and Areas B and C to ask their residents the same question.

“Unless Vernon is able to convince the other parties to participate, that’s it for us,” said Foster of Victoria’s role, adding that Vernon could possibly fund a study on its own.

Mayor Rob Sawatzky cautions that Vernon isn’t placing pressure on Coldstream and Areas B and C.

“It’s not the intention to tell the other jurisdictions how to operate their jurisdictions. They should do what they believe is best for their constituents,” he said.

“We’re not trying to tell them what to do.. The intent by council is to provide a mechanism to bring closure to this issue.”

Politicians in the other jurisdictions weren’t impressed with the city’s direction Monday.

“I’m in total disagreement with them,” said Maria Besso, a Coldstream councillor.

“It’s not a study to give us information on new governance structures. It’s a study on how to bring governance together.”

Besso says a governance study would take time and resources away from critical issues facing the area such as the master water plan.

“They (city) are welcome to make resolutions and send letters but I don’t think it will go anywhere,” she said.

Mike Macnabb, Area C director, will not reverse his decision to oppose a study.

“Vernon can do what it wants but it can’t drag in the other jurisdictions,” he said, adding that he isn’t concerned about a conflict arising between Vernon and the other areas.

“The relationship is always there and we work together.”

The Greater Vernon Governance Society recently collected 3,160 names on a petition calling for a governance society.

“It’s encouraging,” said Bruce Shepherd, society president, of the actions taken by Vernon council Monday.

“People would like to know the facts and understand the pros and cons (of amalgamation).”

The society held its annual general meeting Tuesday night.

“It (city motions) will create good discussion about what we should do in support of council,” said Shepherd.