Delta — or the Corporation of Delta as it is officially known — wants to become a city and is asking only those residents opposed to the idea to send in ballots by March 31.
All municipalities in B.C. are legal corporations, yet Delta is the only one in the province using the word “corporation” in its name. To become a “city,” Delta first has to determine how many residents are opposed to the move and is asking naysayers to fill out ballots at city hall and recreation centres.
Delta Coun. Sylvia Bishop said becoming a city will raise Delta’s profile for individuals and businesses looking to relocate. It will also clear up political misunderstandings, such as when a recent delegation from Delta visited Rotterdam and was mistaken for a private corporation.
“People are always asking, ‘Well, what do you mean corporation of Delta?’ They don’t get that that is nomenclature, that that identifies us as a municipality,” Bishop said. “They think we’re some private business.”
Maple Ridge dropped the “corporation” tag in 2014, with only three people opposed to the name change. Maple Ridge Coun. Kiersten Duncan said becoming a city was the right move.
“If you’re recognized as a city, people really do pay more attention,” Duncan said. “It’s significantly easier to get funding and support from organizations and corporations and other levels of government.”
Delta’s cost to run its campaign, which includes ads in local newspapers and the ballots, is $5,000. Considering voter turnout for municipal elections in Delta has hovered around 30 per cent, the name change is not likely to face mass opposition. Ten per cent of Delta voters, or 6,993 residents, would need to oppose the change for it to be stopped.
“I would be surprised if we had more than a couple thousand [opposed],” said Lauren Munden, senior policy analyst at the Corporation of Delta, who acknowledged the ballot system is not a well-known process and “almost like a counter-petition.”
Robert J. Williams, professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo and expert in municipal electoral politics, said the ballot system was a “very odd” way to govern.
“It strikes me as almost a non-issue,” he said, although noted it is less expensive than a referendum at an average cost of $100,000. “It’s a process of consultation that is not really going to tell you very much, other than very few people care.”
If the name change goes ahead, very little of significance will change. Signs will be replaced as they age, stationary will be phased out and benefits Delta enjoys as a municipality, such as applications for provincial grants, will remain.