Our View: No easy answers on merging cities

Amalgamation! It’s the battle cry of a sizeable number of Langley residents, including numerous past and present politicians, especially in the Township.

Join up the City (severed from the larger Langley for 60 years now) with the Township, and there will be savings, say amalgamation advocates – one council, not two, fewer staffers, less paperwork.

The main problem locally has been Langley City’s reluctance to consider re-joining its older sibling, and sharing its annual casino revenues. 

Now the Fraser Institute has studied a number of Ontario towns that merged in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Over a decade of growth, the study found that the savings were… nonexistent.

Cities like Essex and Kawartha Lakes were merged from two, three, or four towns. They saw increased tax rates, more employees hired, and increasing costs over the last dozen years.

Which isn’t to say that they were worse off than their neighbours that stayed unamalgamated. Those communities had the same problems. But amalgamation wasn’t a magic wand that could be waved to save tax dollars.

Considering that the biggest amalgamation in Canadian history, the creation of modern-day Toronto, also led to increased costs, you would think that would be the last we’d hear about merging the Langleys, or the North Vancouvers, or Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows or Surrey/White Rock.

But it won’t be. 

The study does point out that the Ontario amalgamations were done in a hurry, with little oversight from the provincial government. It’s always possible that a better system could result in some savings. It’s just that all the evidence we have from the last 20 years is against it.

What this means is that amalgamation advocates need some evidence of their own – they need to show exactly how, down to the penny, a joining of cities would save us some bucks. Otherwise, their cause will never move forward.

– M.C.

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