Amalgamating Metro Vancouver cities makes common sense - right?

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

15 comments

belcarracitycouncil1985.jpg
Archived photo of Mayor and council for a place known as the Village of Belcarra, BC

If you live in Metro Vancouver, you're abundantly aware that our region is broken up into 22 separate jurisdictions. Each city has its own administration, city hall, elected politicians, street cleaning crews, pothole and street lamp fixers and so on...and so on.

About every three years or so during election season, we inevitably begin a debate about whether there is a better way to "do civic government".

Should we go the way of Toronto and Montreal and amalgamate all of our cities into a mega-city? Is there truly benefit in establishing a single police force that would provide more cost effective and coordinated investigations? For many people the answer to both those questions would be a resounding yes.

But for a significant segment of our population, the prospect of a mega-city in Metro Vancouver is abhorrent - even if they acknowledge the current structure is top heavy, bureaucratic and unwieldy.

For someone living in Vancouver, the thought of an Abbotsford politician dictating how Dunbar should be developed is a complete non-starter. But perhaps that's why we need to completely re-frame the debate.

Rather than amalgamating the whole region under one roof, how about a very middle-of-the-road approach instead? What would happen if we decided to cut in half the number of cities we have in this region and replace them with I refer to as mini-mega cities?

Now for the purposes of this post, please imagine the Premier has temporarily granted me the all-mighty power of amalgamation. Here goes!

For starters I would leave Vancouver, the province's largest city untouched. Of course, this being Metro Vancouver, all the other cities would whine about my decision. They'd be screaming from the hilltops about bias and that Vancouver got its way - again. I sit and listen...then move on.

Of course I'd justify my decision based on the fact that over 600,000 people already live in Vancouver. Therefore, amalgamating a few more cities within its boundaries would provide no real benefit.

Heading south, I take direct aim at Richmond and Delta. But before I do, can anyone actually tell me where the boundary of Richmond ends and Delta begins? From both above and on the ground, it's really hard to tell them apart. It's time for me to wave my wand and voila...a new city is created - it is known as Deltmond.

Now lets shift a bit northward toward the Burrard Inlet. But first a skill testing question. Can anyone tell me where the heck the Village of Anmore or Belcarra is in relation to Vancouver? Did you know they are actually part of our Metro Vancouver governance structure? Yeah right...sure you did!

By the power vested in me by her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth the second, I now pronounce that Belcarra, Anmore and Port Moody are from this day forward known as Port Belmore. This beautiful new city nestled on the eastern tip of Burrard Inlet is truly a west coast gem!

Moving right along to the geographic centre of the Lower Mainland (that's what Metro Vancouver used to be called before they spent a lot of your tax dollars hiring a new brand management consultant), it's now time to check out the cities of Burnaby and New Westminster.

At only 50,000 people, my hometown of New Westminster proudly boasts its own police force and some of the highest property taxes on Earth - well, at least it feels that way when I have to pay them each year.

I now wave my magic municipal wand and *presto*. I've amalgamated the two cities which heretofore are known as Burnminster. I decided to pass on Newburn in order to once again avoid being accused of bias.

I would then amalgamate the Township of Langley with the City of Langley. Heck, if you can't even pick different names for your city, then surely you are a top candidate for amalgamation. It might be a tad boring, but I'm simply renaming those two cities as Langley.

The same goes for the District of North Vancouver and the City of North Vancouver. Except this time I would also lump in West Vancouver and Bowen Island for good measure. It may be a tad long, but I would rename it as the City of North-and-just-west-uv Vancouver.

Okay folks...I know you may be getting a bit tired right about now, but bear with me as we only have a few more municipalities to go.

On the eastern front of our region, we have what would be considered a Vancouver city planner's nightmare. Row after row of single family homes sprawled over what used to be pristine farmland and forests. They are the cities known as Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge and its now time to squish  (that's a planner's technical term for amalgamation) them together.

If I had more time I would have lobbied the Province to allow me to annex Mission as well (technically they're not in the region). Oh well. Time to wave my wand and introduce you to the new City of Maple Meadows.

In short order, I would also re-write the boundaries for both Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam (there goes that same name thing again). They may not like it, but I've decided to rename this part of Metro as Port Coquitlam. I figured "Coquitlam" remains in the name, so why should their residents raise a stink? Furthermore, think of all the money we'll save now that Port Coquitlam doesn't have to reprint  its stationary!

Now to the kingdom of Surrey ruled by the ever-popular Mayor Dianne Watts. While I was tempted to treat Surrey like Vancouver and simply leave it alone, I couldn't.

After all, just imagine the look on the face of every White Rock resident when I tell them that once and for all - YES, you really do live in Surrey. Priceless!

It goes without saying the two cities should be joined together. After pondering many different options, I've decided to rename the cities as Surrey Rocks. Kind of cool eh? It also just happens to make for a great tagline too!

Phew...that was no easy exercise in democracy. But there you have it folks, your new Metro Vancouver cities.

  • Burnminster (Burnaby, New Westminster)
  • Surrey Rocks (Surrey, Whiterock)
  • Langley (Township of Langley, City of Langley)
  • Maple Meadows (Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows)
  • Deltmond (Richmond, Delta)
  • Port Belmore (Port Moody, Belcarra, Anmore)
  • Port Coquitlam (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam)
  • North-and-just-west-uv Vancouver (Bowen Island, North Vancouver, City of North Vancouver, West Vancouver)

One final note. I've been advised by KPMG that my new mini-mega cities will cut administration costs by up to 15%! That will be more enough to help pay for the Evergreen Line!

- Post by Daniel. You can follow us on Twitter @CityCaucus. Or you can "like" us at Facebook.com/CityCaucus.

15 Comments

"can anyone actually tell me where the boundary of Richmond ends and Delta begins? From both above and on the ground, it's really hard to tell them apart."

Are you serious?

Boo, you're way toooo serious. Now let's have some more fun with these names:

Burnanew (Burnaby, New Westminster)

Surrey (Throws) Rocks (Surrey, Whiterock)

Tangley-in honour of it's road system (Township of Langley, City of Langley)

Maple Syrup Meadows (Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows)

Deltoid (Richmond, Delta)

Port Morecowbell (Port Moody, Belcarra, Anmore)

Coco-Quitlam (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam)

Shangrilala Landing (Bowen Island, North Vancouver, City of North Vancouver, West Vancouver)

You're welcome. No charge.

Daniel, while this needs some fine-tuning, you are definitely onto something. In fact, we started to broach the topic on yesterday's CKNW Civic Affairs Panel.

I too am opposed to a complete amalgamation...just look what's happening in my hometown of Toronto?..but notwithstanding what North Van District and City of Langley councillors tell me, I am convinced that there would be merit in some amalgamations, if fairly adjudicated, with appropriate compensation to offset gains and losses.

In order for this to happen, there will be a need to review past amalgamation reports, and extensive consultation. I think this would be an appropriate task to be undertaken by the potential new Municipal Auditor's office.

Don't forget "Burquitlam"...

And what about creating some exotic, non-contiguous mini-mega-cities. You could put all the areas with "west" in their name together: WEST Vancouver, New WESTminster, Vancouver's WEST side and WEST end.

You could put all the cities that end in "y" together, too: SurreY, LangleY, BurnabY, Port MoodY...

Good fun. I would put Vancouver and Burnaby together and leave New West as an independent enclave, good to have some small governments as well as large. I doubt many people in Bowen much to do with the rest of us!

I'm with boohoo on this. Who doesn't know where Richmond's boundaries end- its an island! Except for the eastern tip that is New West all Lulu Island is Richmond! Speaking of New West roll it in with Burnaby and then join both to Vancouver. Boundary Rd is the most artificial of boundaries. And throw the UEL in as well.

The Thought of The Day

"Hold your horses! I'd rather wait a bit for the Big One & Tsunami Brothers ... only after that, we could start doing a clear new land amalgamation. New waterfront, don't have to worry about Richmond, housing affordability... the whole she-bang."

Bureaucrats with nothing to do, chewing 'for office only' released Viagra as if it was M&Ms, and with huge hard-ons on the public trough.
I also heard that the Earth's Path needs cleaning. I say would should chip in... raise property taxes or something!

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Good idea, bad choice of names. But one more--remove that tiny chunk of land south of the Queensborough Bridge and assign it to Richmond.

just don't ask Tsawwassen to call itself Ladner - there would be a Tea Party revolt!

Good ideas in principal... But I think if we're going to go through all the work, time and money to amalgamate, we need to see larger cost benefit.

i.e. 50 years from now, people will scratch their heads as to why we went ffrom 19 to 7?

I still think partitial amalgamation is good idea but let's go even bigger to take full advantage of economies of scale.

Maybe 3 new cities:

Vancouver (Vancouver, Bowen, West Van, North Van, Burnaby, Richmond)

Surrey (Surrey, Delta, White Rock, Langley)

Port Coquitlam (Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge)

Just brainstorming here... Could swap things around a bit but I think getting down to 3 or less would be where we really see increased efficiency and better collaboration on large transit or infrastructure projects.

also, 3 means you always have a majority vote :)

Another interesting aspect of the amalgamation question is to note the fact that the City of Vancouver is itself an amalgamation. The City of Vancouver grew to its current boundaries by incorporating various smaller communities that were originally outside of its boundaries.

If memory serves me correctly, the Marpole area was once called Eburne. And South Vancouver was a separate entity as well at one time, as was Vancouver's west side, I think.

Please don't dump on me if I have the names and details wrong becuase I'm just going by memory. But I think I am correct in noting the basic manner in which the City of Vancouver grew to its current boundaries.

City limits used to be 16th Avenue on the south, Nanaimo Street on the east, and Alma on the west. Municipality to the south was South Vancouver which later split along Cambie in 1900 to form Point Grey on the west side.

I believe amalgamation occurred in 1929

" But before I do, can anyone actually tell me where the boundary of Richmond ends and Delta begins? "

Erm yes actually. Geographically it is very distinct. It is called the south arm of the Fraser River.

The only possible confusion - since Richmond is most of Lulu Island - is the New Westminster Boundary - neatly marked by Boundary Road in Queensborough. Annacis Island is also in Delta.

The lack of amalgamation in the region is due to the attachment people have to their own community - which is why White Rock broke away from Surrey. As for the places that have the same names but two municipalities each (Langley and North Van) the less said the better.

Only a top down look produces this view. Everyone else tends to look up from the bottom.

Michael, your:

"I am convinced that there would be merit in some amalgamations, if fairly adjudicated, with appropriate compensation to offset gains and losses."

Is a fair start at tackling something no politician I know of has ever had the courage to take on. Given there could be a 15% saving perhaps our new civic auditor should crunch the numbers and make the case (although on 2nd thought he/she might well be up to it for quite a while just getting on top of the scale of files -- can you imagine monitoring the books and where the money really goes for every city in the province!).

Regarding the couplings, would Burnaby want NW's lack of industrial/business base and higher taxes (is that what you mean by "gains and losses" Michael?). And, Surrey is big enough. South Surrey should become part of Whiterock. I suspect West Van will just say: stuff it!

Enjoyed the article and I understand the argument for bringing up amalgamation, but I'm not sure what is wrong with small communities. I live in Metro Vancouver's smallest Village: Belcarra(700 residents). I do respect the work that large municipalities do to improve the region and I know that we benefit from some subsidies, but I also think that small communities have some envious advantages lacking elsewhere:

Elected officials that you know as neighbours, a council chamber where you can go and be heard, lower taxes than the rest of the region, volunteer emergency services, less crime, greater community involvement, and a sense of communal responsibility.

If you want less taxation and more democracy, break down the larger cities to populations of 1000-5000 residents and foster some civic identity. The anonymity of larger cities ends up costing more than people believe.

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