The Comox Valley has always been an eclectic group of municipalities, all sharing a common history, and very different personalities. As time has worn on, the physical divide has become less and less, but the different idiosyncrasies have remained. There is nothing wrong with that, it makes the Valley such an amazing place to live; there is a little something here for everyone.
But how much are our local fiefdoms costing us, both in duplication of services, and lost revenue opportunities?
Most obviously, our lack of a cohesive growth strategy is straining our discombobulated patchwork of sewer and water management resources. With no master plan in place, each municipality will struggle to pay ever-escalating capital costs to fix their tiny portion of the big picture.
Add to that the independent departments of administration, planning, recreation, fire, and you can quickly see where this is going. Don’t even get me started on the hoards of politicians required to keep the wheels of our tiny nation-states rolling along.
So those are a few of the “expense” line items that could use a diet, but let us look at the other side of our municipal ledger. Income, or in municipal terms, tax revenue.
Raising taxes is one option to boost revenues, but is always unpopular and there is only so much blood you can squeeze from a stone. The other option is to apply for Federal and Provincial assistance in the form of grants and loans; they are dolloped out generously to ensure the appropriate districts get their share of the pork and in a federal and provincial swing riding like ours we should be drowning in it.
Unfortunately, as we stand divided, we do not qualify for many of the federal and provincial programs that would improve our standard of living. This funding runs the gamut from combatting homelessness and drug abuse right through to infrastructure projects. Even though we are a collectively larger population, Port Alberni and Campbell River get a far larger slice of this funding pie than the Comox Valley, all because we stand apart.
So as leave my Cumberland office, to drive through Courtenay, to my meeting in Comox, I wonder what the downside of uttering the word Amalgamation out loud is?