So many mayors, but for how long?

I like to know what’s coming. You could say it’s a hobby of mine. I spend more mental energy than I care to explain trying to see what’s coming to us as a species, and as individuals living in our little geological and social islands; in terms of our culture, our technology, our daily lives. Doing that isn’t easy though, because the single most important requirement of prognostication is information … something that takes time to acquire in any useful amount, and that’s assuming those who have it will give it up. With determination though I have found that it can be done, prognostication that is, and done effectively. You just need to pay attention to all the little things.

Here is an example.

I won’t delve into the specifics of where I got my data, too tired and too busy to dig it all back up, but suffice it to say I got it and I trust it. Recently I read an article in the Times Colonist discussing the approval of the construction of an LRT system in Victoria and the CRD. It spoke of how they would build it, vague timelines, and a small line at the bottom of the article mentioned having to be creative about acquiring funding. It said this while mentioning quietly that provincial legislation might need to be considered to make the required funds available.

Provincial legislation? Hmmmmm…

Fast forward to today. Apparently the CRD is going to be the new “owner” of BC Transit’s Victoria operations. That could mean a lot of things, but one thing it does mean is that the province no longer directly pays for the Victoria operations, and that the board is now going to be made up of Victoria locals, as opposed to people from all over the province.

A bit of convergence going on it seems. Why, pray tell, might that be?

Fact: An LRT system is expensive. Painfully so. If memory serves, they have estimated 970 million to get it started, and we all know how those early estimates go. I guestimate about 1.7 billion dollars minimum will be needed to make those little electric trains volley across the landscape of the CRD. Big cash, but we have it, right? Considering the very sorry state of our infrastructure right now, along with the reticence shown by the region to spend money on anything that might do something as offensive as benefit the municipality next door, I doubt it. Consider the blue bridge.

It’s a lifeline roadway that needed work years ago, but bickering and the hope it would wait until the next administration have all but killed it. Now they are squabbling over who gets to pay for how much of the new, and less useful, replacement … and that was a decision which only took a half a decade and millions of dollars in studies to come to.

LRT systems mean many interchanges, many right-of-way issues, much eviction of landowners, lots of trying to figure out whose train is the best for our needs, etc, etc, etc. You can see my point. A giant and expensive bureaucratic mess, spelled with a capital M. So here’s what I am seeing.

I think that within about three years, assuming the Liberals are returned to power in the next election, the CRD and Victoria will be merged by the provincial government. There will no longer be a bakers dozen of mayors bobbing for funding apples every year, now it will be just Victoria, large and in charge.

Think about it. Every amalgamation that has ever happened in Canada was done against the wishes of the teeny tiny fiefdoms who were being absorbed. Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, each and every one had huge protests, and in the end they all finished as one municipality because in the end the cash was just too much to refuse.

Cash?

Federal Infrastructure Grants.

Grants that Victoria doesn’t currently qualify for because it is too small, hence our extremely crappy roadways. Grants that could help pay for all those interchanges, all those land purchases, all those road expansions. Grants that will only arrive if Victoria is combined with the CRD municipalities by the provincial government.

There’s that provincial legislation I read about.

So the CRD is apparently going to be supervising B.C. Transit’s Victoria operations. Operations that span many municipalities. Victoria is getting an LRT system, which by any estimation will cost more than they, and the surrounding municipalities, can afford. Provincial legislation is being touted as an option in gaining increased funding, but the nature of said legislation is not specified … and nobody is talking about asking Stephen Harper to help pay for it.

It’s a long shot hunch, but I say within three years amalgamation will happen. I just hope the folks in Oak Bay don’t dig out the Sawzall and cut themselves off the island in protest. There really isn’t anything more upsetting than watching a grown millionaire cry.

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