Corporation no more: Delta approves municipal name change

The municipality hopes to officially be the City of Delta in time for its Canada 150 celebration.

Council voted unanimously on May 15 to approve Delta’s change from a corporation to a city.

The vote took place after the results of the alternative approval process used to gauge public support for the move were released on Thursday (May 11).

Under that system, residents were asked to fill out an elector response form between Feb. 11 and March 31 only if they did not support renaming the Corporation of Delta.

If 10 per cent of residents, or 6,993 people, voiced their opposition to the proposal by voting against it, the renaming initiative would be abandoned.

Only 1,506 people submitted valid elector response forms — 1450 from South Delta and 56 from North Delta — constituting 2.15 per cent of residents, meaning the municipality has the go-ahead to pursue becoming the City of Delta.

Council voted unanimously to pursue the name change at its January 30 regular meeting.

According to a report to council, the use of the word corporation in Delta’s name has led to challenges when dealing with other organizations.

It specifically mentions how a recent delegation to Rotterdam, Netherlands ran into issues when officials from the host city “mistakenly assumed the Corporation of Delta was a private business and had difficulty comprehending Delta as a local government.”

Prior to council giving the plan final approval on May 15, Mayor Lois Jackson mentioned similar difficulties during a trip to Ottawa.

“When we’re in Ottawa and people think we’re a business looking for grants, it’s a little bit embarrassing,” she said.

The report goes on to say that the name change would “also supports the promotion of Delta’s identity as a vibrant city and community rather than a corporation.”

This is another topic Jackson brought up prior to council’s vote.

“If you Google the cities of British Columbia, Wikipedia does not have us there as a city,” she said. “That’s not good.”

Now that the vote has passed, the Corporation of Delta will proceed with drafting a letter to the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development requesting to change Delta’s classification from a district municipality to a city.

If the government supports Delta’s request, an order in council will be drafted and considered by cabinet requesting letters patent be issued to Delta with a classification and name change to City of Delta.

According to Delta CAO George Harvie’s report to council on the municipal reclassification and name change request, Delta is seeking provisions in its letters patent to ensure all existing bylaws, permits, decisions, protections and authority are retained.

The Province has indicated it could take six to eight weeks to complete the drafting of the letters patent and conclude the cabinet process associated with a change in municipal classification.

Delta hopes to incorporate the name change into its Canada 150 celebrations.

According to Harvie’s report, in addition to the elector response forms, Delta obtain public feedback in the form of 39 items of correspondence, mostly by email.

Of the 39 items received, four people expressed support for the name change, while 35 were opposed.

The municipal clerk’s office also received several process-related phone call inquiries, and “a few” comments and questions were posted and responded to on Delta’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Harvie’s report says the feedback revealed “a number of misunderstandings regarding Delta’s current local government status and the impacts of a classification change.”

“When there’s a perceived absence of information, then fear festers,” Coun. Heather King said during the May 15 council meeting.

“I think the report does much to illuminate what’s ahead of us.”

The report outlined a number of concerns from residents, including the belief that a change to a city “would undermine or result in a loss of Delta’s agricultural and environmental identity.

“As well, some individuals mistakenly thought Delta would lose its status as a municipality if it were reclassified to a city,” the report continued, “while many were concerned that Delta would lose community names such as Ladner, Tsawwassen and North Delta.”

Some were concerned the process would exceed the allocated $5,000 budget, while others thought the name change would also mean in change in legal status that would affect bylaws, licences and permits, as well as taxes, assessments, grant funding opportunities, zoning and agricultural land.

In his report, Harvie says these concerns are unwarranted, as the municipality and the province will be taking steps to ensure that all existing bylaws, zonings and protections would be protected.

Harvie also says the process to date has cost Delta $2,200, which was spent on advertisements promoting the alternate approval process in the North Delta Reporter and the Delta Optimist.

In order to keep costs down, stationary and the like bearing the name Corporation of Delta will be updated gradually as existing supplies are used up.

In terms of other branded items, such as park, wayfinding and facility signage, as well as the corporate vehicle fleet, most are only branded with the name Delta and the bullrush logo. Neither the logo, Delta’s coat of arms or municipal motto “Ours to preserve by hand and heart” are going to change.

The report also says a couple of citizens suggested South Delta separate from North Delta.

“A separation between North and South Delta would not only detrimentally impact the municipality’s profound environmental, economic and cultural ties, but would also result in the loss of a significant tax base,” Harvie says in his report.

“It is important that Delta remains unified as a municipality not only to retain the unique communities that comprise Delta, but also in order for Delta to maintain its economic strength.”

– with files from Grace Kennedy