(Mine, cross-posted from the North Vancouver Politics Blog.)
This week’s North Shore News has a cover story (with a rather dapper photograph) about George Pringle’s new organization Unite North Van. The group plans to run candidates in both of the North Vancouvers during the upcoming municipal elections.
Do check out their web site for much more information.
As is almost always the case when amalgamations are proposed, the claim is that somehow great savings will be found and taxpayers will be enriched. The fact this has yet to happen anywhere is never considered.
The fact is that after thirty years of successive politicians trumpeting their goal of “cutting the fat”, “trimming the budget”, “finding efficiencies”, “eliminating duplication”, privatising, contracting out, and generally trashing the reputations of hard working municipal staff, there isn’t much of anything left to be cut.
Unless you’re prepared to start eliminating some pretty popular or essential services – say sports fields and fire trucks – there’s nothing left to chop.
Unless you believe that the employees of either the District or City are literally working only half time you can’t seriously argue that there are more than a handful of people that could be fired without it mucking up the delivery of essential services.
The stuff that District and City employees do now will still need to be done, and you’ll need pretty much the same number of people to it.
Still, despite all of that, amalgamation is good idea, and arguably many decades overdue. The idea of the geographically tiny City existing in the middle of the District is an absurd one.
Whatever historical imperatives created that situation are surely no longer relevant.
My amalgamation experiences were with Toronto and Hamilton Ontario. These were both forced marriages which tried to merge suburban communities with an urban core, and both have had serious problems.
In Toronto this is what created the political landscape that gave them Mayor Rob Ford. In Hamilton it led to an outwardly focused series of Councils at a time when the urban core and the manufacturing centre of the city were both in deep decline.
In both cases the centre of the new city tended to be viewed as somewhere that residents commuted to and from. Or in Hamilton’s case – avoided entirely.
The District and the City can’t be compared to Hamilton/Flamborough or Toronto/905. I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of North Vancouver people neither know nor care where their respective municipalities end.
In practice it just doesn’t matter to most people. Lynn Valley residents drive into the City to shop, and City people drive over to Rona and Canadian Tire for hardware. And both travel to West Vancouver for all of the things that you can’t buy here.
To a large degree there’s no significant cultural or demographic difference between the two. Very, very few people will want to live only in the City or the District – they’re interchangeable.
It’s because the two municipalities are so similar that amalgamation makes sense.
The District and the City already share a lot of resources – fire fighting; the RCMP; recreational facilities ; the School Board. District and City staff already talk, share ideas, and coordinate between them. Making the remaining services consistent and available to all North Vancouver residents just makes sense.
What a united North Vancouver would offer though is a stronger voice when lobbying for the things that only a Provincial or Federal government can provide.
One large city has more clout than two small ones when dealing the likes of Translink or various government ministries. When you consider the many ways that the Province in particular calls the shots for municipalities that could be a valuable thing.