By Bradley Collins
Jan. 13, 2017
Ben Smith loves Victoria-by-the-Sea. He has lived there for 35 years. He has raised five children there. He runs a candle and jewelry store in the summer. He is the chairman of the community council.
And he hates the idea of being forced to join other smaller communities in an amalgamation.
Derrick Badour has lived in the community for over five years. He is raising a six-year-old son there. He is a school bus driver. He referees soccer and hockey. He has sat on the village council since 2014. He is a volunteer firefighter.
And he is willing to consider the idea.
Smith says the idea of forcing smaller municipalities to join larger ones will anger many Victoria residents.
Any government move could put Victoria, with a population of about 100, into a municipality of over 2,000. The province is consulting municipalities, but the public is largely unaware of the situation, Smith said.
Every time he asks the government a question about the idea, he gets no answers. The government is pushing on without all the facts, he said.
“They’re flying by the seat of their pants.”
The village still does not have a copy of the proposal. The province just can’t lump them in with other people, he said.
“It’s not fair to us.”
He wonders why no one, not even the government, seems to be talking about the issue. The government is trying to put one over on them, he said.
“Somebody’s trying to make a fool of us.”
The transparency on this issue is hazy. This decision will give more power to the premier and the environment minister, he said.
“Why give all the power to them?”
A lot of small places have no planning board or bylaws. Victoria has all of that. They live within their budget. They don’t want to lose what they have accomplished, he said.
“Why throw it all out the window in a vote?”
A lot of rural areas don’t want to live in larger municipalities. Victoria deals with things in a certain way, he said.
“We’ve operated competently under the present system.”
They will be lumped in with people who can’t run their own communities. They’ve worked hard to get things for Victoria, he said.
“We’re reluctant to throw it away.”
The community remains hopeful this will be resolved. It’s best to stand back and see how it plays out. He’s happy to stay out of it for now, he said.
“Victoria has the most to lose around here.”
Badour shares many of Smith’s feelings, but he is open to the general concept.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to join forces with other communities that want to move forward together, but we want to stay independent and not forced to amalgamate.”
Green leader Peter Bevan-Baker sent the council an email on the issue. According to the municipal act, the village must maintain a six-person council and a mayor.
The village must have an administration office that is wheelchair accessible, open and available to the public for 20 hours a week.
No problem, said Badour.
“We know we’re a special village, but we do meet the provincial government’s criteria to proceed as an incorporated village and we want to remain just that.”
It’s a good job opposition MLAs Brad Trivers and Bevan-Baker have been asking the government questions, Badour said.
“They’re ramming it down our throats.”
The government is trying to make the village pay for services it would normally handle.
“The bottom line is dollars and politics is business.”