Sunday, September 8, 2013

Petition targets amalgamation vote

Bruce Shepherd (left) and Peter Moore, with the Society for the Future Governance of Greater Vernon, sign a petition calling for local and provincial politicians to pursue a process to bring Vernon, Coldstream and the two electoral areas together. Jennifer Smith/Morning Star
By Richard Rolke - Vernon Morning Star
There’s pressure to place Greater Vernon’s future in the hands of residents.
Until October 31, a petition will be circulated asking local and provincial authorities to develop a plan to combine Vernon, Coldstream and Areas B and C into a single entity to provide a more efficient use of taxes.
“We want the citizens of Greater Vernon to say if we are one community or not,” said Bruce Shepherd, president of the Society for the Future Governance of Greater Vernon.
The petition is being published in The Morning Star and is available at
The goal is to have a referendum on the ballot in each jurisdiction during the 2014 civic elections in regards to governance.
“If they (voters) say no, at least they said it,” said Peter Moore, society director, adding that those opposed to amalgamation should be interested in a referendum proceeding.
“It would be wise for them to ask to have the question on the ballot so they can vote no once and for all.”
The society was first formed in 2005 with a primary focus on the entire North Okanagan, but nothing materialized and efforts ceased. However, earlier this year, a group of eight to 10 people from all four Greater Vernon jurisdictions decided to resurrect the group and narrow the scope to just Greater Vernon.
“Our members are concerned about the duplication of services and inefficiencies,” said Moore of two municipal councils and two electoral area directors as well as parallel bureaucracies for 58,000 people.
As an example, the society points to water and parks, recreation and culture being handled by the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee but any decisions must then go before the Regional District of North Okanagan board. In some cases, processes must also be ratified by Vernon and Coldstream councils.
“There’s too much time spent going from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and committee to committee,” said Shepherd.
“The speed of decision-making has slowed down and the infighting has increased,” added Moore.
Moore says that Coldstream’s population grew 10 per cent between 2000 and 2010 but per capita spending, adjusted for inflation, climbed 32 per cent, while in Vernon, the population increased 13 per cent and spending per capita went up 53 per cent.
“Spending is far outstripping the ability to pay so where will the dollars come from? Either taxpayers dig ever deeper or services will be cut. To avoid this, we must find cost savings in how we operate municipal government.”
As part of a recent city core review, consultant KPMG indicated amalgamation would generate efficiencies and reduce costs. Vernon council decided not to take action on that recommendation.
There have been previous attempts to move towards amalgamation but Moore is confident this new process will move ahead positively.
“We are getting a sense that there’s a silent majority of residents that want the issue addressed,” he said.
The society is not indicating if it has a target for how many signatures it would like on the petition by Oct. 31.
“The provincial government has no magical number either but it needs to be a significant number of residents to call for the question,” said Shepherd.
Before launching the campaign, the society consulted with provincial government representatives, including Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster.
“They asked about the process and how the province would move forward if they get the numbers on the petition they believe they will get,” said Foster.
“We (government) do not force amalgamation on anyone. I am pleased someone is going on a fact-finder  but we do not take sides and we are not initiating the process.”
While the society favours amalgamation, Shepherd insists the priority of the campaign is to simply explore options.
“It might be amalgamation or it might not, which is why it’s important for citizens on both sides of the issue to sign the petition and get the question on the table for formal discussion with facts,” he said.
“Local and provincial politicians won’t take the initiative to find cost and efficiency savings in governance unless taxpayers demand it.”

How many "Anonymous" Greater Vernon Citizen can vote and how often? So far I counted 21. A petition usually has a bit stricter rules, among them that one "citizen" can only vote once. Even Mr Moore voted twice, an oversight I hope. I have nothing against a petition but it should have rules that no one person can stuff the ballot box. 

For those interested in amalgamation consequences here is an interesting link: How Rob Ford's Meltdown Could Save Toronto.



Anonymous said...

Before you jump on the amalgamation bandwagon, here is an interesting read:

Anonymous said...

One person (name given) voted 3 times.

The "result" of this flawed petition should not decide my future. It should be withdrawn post-haste.

"Small is beautiful"!

Google Australia amalgamation/
Toronto de-amalgamation to see how amalgamation results in taxpayers paying more with less representation.

You can be sure that politicians representing more people will receive pay commensurate with a larger population base.

Amalgamation is a developer's dream however, and if you love sprawl, amalgamation will be your thing.

Want city folk deciding the shape of your community? I don't.

Anonymous said...

The link posted at 7:40 didn't work.

This one does:

It is an illuminating read. Well done Richard.

Coldstreamer said...

There seem to be a lot of Greater Vernon Citizens named "Anonymous". I wonder if they are all related and if so, ho do they know which one of them is being addressed at any given time. So far I counted 32 of them.

Anonymous said...

A few of the petition comments suggest a rather simple formula of "eliminate duplication and you will decrease costs to taxpayers".While this is undoubtedly true for some senior positions and a few elected officials, are those cost savings sufficient to offset the increased burden that will fall to the new entity as it absorbs all of those costs, including roads ( electoral districts) , that are now the responsibility of the province. How about a professional (as opposed to volunteer) fire fighting force in Verrnon's suburbs (Silverstar, Lavington ,BX and Coldstream) .....what are these new costs? What has been the Okanagan Landing experience to amalgamation? How will this initiative protect or destroy the rural character of Coldstream and our already low tax base? Let's have the discussion......but let's see the numbers and impacts!

Anonymous said...

If this petition was designed simply to foster some discussion and get the local politicians talking, it has been successful. I now know some of the thoughts of all of the Coldstream politicians.....except Pat Cochrane.

Looking at the comments made by some signatories on the petition suggests a very poor understanding of how local government works, structurally and financially.....and who can blame them, it is hugely complex and costly! Yes, I want my elected officials to always seek efficiencies between the partners and look to improve local governance, but, to simply think that eliminating a few people and a couple of offices will make it any less complex or more cost effective is naive at best! From absorbing the costs of professional firemen, to roads that the province now pays for, may diminish the initial attraction of amalgamation.

The best approach for those seeking amalgamation is to support like-minded political candidates and truly test the "silent majority" support in the 2014 municipal election.

Anonymous said...

re 8:35 anonymous: "I now know some of the thoughts of all of the Coldstream politicians.....except Pat Cochrane."

Yes, this "petition" process has indeed been illuminating!

Most people I know cherish our Coldstream identity.

Imagine the urban sprawl, and top down planning if a developer friendly mayor, such as witnessed in the not too distant past, had control over a homogeneous super region?

Want to share even more scarce resources and services with new development?

Smaller jurisdictions provide a natural check and balance, with local values protected from rapacious greed, and environmental degradation.

In the end, you would have to pay a super mayor and council more to reflect the greater "responsibility" of a larger population base. So add that to the list of expenses for such a large region.
Wouldn't it be ironic if regional reps and mayors ran for Greater Vernon Council seats and won? It is in the realm of possibility given the reputation and track record of trusted community leaders.

P.Sault said...

Those seeking amalgamation should keep in mind the old saying: be careful what you wish for.
Vernon is a disaster and cannot look after what they have properly. It has become a Podunk town of dollar stores, big box stores, cash stores, pawn shops, thrift shops, fast food and soup kitchens and empty storefronts and weedy or concrete landscaping. They've lost every good employer to other cities without a whimper.

Coldstream Ratepayers News! All Coldstream residents are ratepayers!

The opinions expressed by "Coldstreamer" are strictly his own and do not represent the opinions of Coldstream Council!

Because I value your thoughtful opinions, I encourage you to add a comment to this discussion. Don't be offended if I edit your comments for clarity or to keep out questionable matters, however, and I may even delete off-topic comments.

Gyula Kiss;


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I have been a resident of Coldstream since 1976. I have had 15 years of experience on Council, 3 years as Mayor. As a current Councillor I am working to achieve fair water and sewer rates and to ensure that taxpayers get fair treatment. The current direction regarding water supply is unsustainable and I am doing all I can to get the most cost effective water supply possible.