By Rod Clark
Published: August 14, 2018
The “A” word, as it is known in the City, stands for “Amalgamation” with the District of North Vancouver, and well, it’s a “Trojan Horse” which the District of North Vancouver likes to leave at our gate from time to time. The current version of this merger is being pushed by a District Mayoral candidate as an “an overarching theme” but it’s a bad idea and it should be soundly rejected by anyone who has any experience of governance in the City of the District of North Vancouver. The fact that the District of North Vancouver started the whole process during an election year makes it even more suspicious.
And then there is the survey, with responses from little over 600 respondents. While such a small sample doesn’t tell us much, it wasn’t needed because an exhaustive study by the so-called Blue Ribbon Society has already studies the issue at length. Still, the survey wasn’t the best gauge on public sentiment.
There was no background given to the respondents regarding any of the factors involved with Amalgamation. In other words the people getting the calls were asked to fly blind as far as knowledge on the issue. And as the number of people surveyed shows, this is a hardly great statistically valid premise and the whole process certainly wasn’t very neighbourly on the part of the District of North Vancouver.
Like the survey, the district claims that the amalgamation will save taxpayers money is also a bogus claim. It will not save money. By the admission of the District’s own Blue-Ribbon Committee commissioned by the district to study the merger, there are no cost savings to be had. We already share services such as police and fire, emergency services, as well as cultural services and amalgamating would not offer any financial benefit or additional cost savings for these services.
I also find it curious that District of North Vancouver has magically dropped the District of West Vancouver from the amalgamation discussion.
The district is a far-flung area stretching from Deep Cove to the Capilano River and in fact, it was one of the original reasons why the City and the District are separate administrative entities. The City of North Vancouver is an urban compact municipality and we find it a lot cheaper to serve our residents. Our smaller size has many benefits and one among them is costs for services we provide to our resident. Costs to service in the district are much higher, so why would the city give up its advantage and take higher service costs. It makes no sense from a governance perspective.
Through prudent fiscal management and good fortune the City has been able to build up Reserve Funds in excess of $100 million. The City took over a number of properties in the Great Depression for the taxes owed. We sat on those lands for nearly 80 years or so before they were sold for redevelopment and the funds were placed into our into reserves. The City plans ahead for Infrastructure replacement and has a “Pay as you Go” Policy. There is no reason why we would want to share those hard-won reserve funds with the district where the reigning policy mantra is Tax and Spend.
The City set up our Award-Winning District Energy Corp – Lonsdale Energy, some years ago as a way of reducing greenhouse gases. It was modelled after District Energy systems around the world with an NV City focus. District Energy systems are best suited to compact urban settings.
LEC will be a significant financial contributor to CNV finances by 2020 and beyond and will diversify the city’s revenue stream. Why didn’t the district get serious about district energy, especially given the densification in Lower Capilano and Lynn Valley?
North Vancouver City adopted its 1st Official Community Plan back in 1980. The OCP has had three major reviews since then, each time with plenty of thoughtful community discussion and public input. The district, meanwhile, adopted its first OCP in 2011 and has had no reviews to date.
CNV’s social plan was adopted in 1998 and is currently undergoing a major refresh, while the district has no such plans. We will lose many of these initiatives and policy frameworks if we amalgamate.
So, there is no money to be saved, we have a healthy reserve fund the district is perhaps eyeing, our innovation and forward looking policies would be obliterated and our citizens will burdened with extra costs. There is absolutely nothing to be gained.
Given all these factors, perhaps, rather than pushing Amalgamation on a vastly superior partner, the District of North Vancouver should simply follow the City’s lead. They have much catching up to do in many areas.
A self-described defender of the tax payer’s purse, Rod Clark is completing his 7th term on North Vancouver City Council.