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Amalgamation unlikely to move forward: MLA

Bruce Shepherd (left) and Jason Shortt, with the Greater Vernon Governance Society, believe amalgamating into a single entity would reduce redundancies in government and put money where it's needed in the community.
January 15, 2014 - 3:15 PM

VERNON - Efforts to amalgamate the four jurisdictions of Greater Vernon appear to have hit the end of the road.

Even supporting a study of unification was unanimously voted down by Coldstream council Monday. There’s similarly no interest from Area B and C directors, and even though the City of Vernon was expected to vote in favour of doing the study in two weeks time, it’s likely not enough for the province to act on.

Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster believes the support of at least two municipalities was needed for the province to fund a study on the pros and cons of amalgamation.

“As we’ve said from the start—myself, the premier and the minister—this has to be locally driven. We don’t initiate the studies, requests have to come from local government,” Foster says.

Without agreement from at least two municipalities, Foster says there’s not much the provincial government can do. 

“We do not force amalgamation on anyone,” Foster says. “Obviously the other three jurisdictions are not interested. I really don’t see anything moving forward now.”

President of the Greater Vernon Governance Society Bruce Shepherd says there’s “frustration and disappointment” among amalgamation proponents, though they’re not calling it quits just yet.

“We’ve got our annual meeting in two weeks. At the moment, we’re waiting until we get together and put all our thoughts together and we’ll see what happens,” Shepherd says.

The society is currently awaiting clarification from the province on its requirements for funding the study. The group’s original understanding was that strong petition results would be enough to prompt a review on the matter, and with 3,160 names, Shepherd believes they accomplished that.

Foster insists the province hasn’t wavered on its original instructions to the society that local government support was a must. He applauds the initiative and says there may be other ways for the 3,160 people who signed the petition to make their voices heard.

“I would suggest to those people that there’s a great big referendum next fall and they can have their say at that time,” Foster says. “Whether it will be an issue during the campaign, I don’t know, but it may be part of the conversation.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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