Are Duncan and North Cowichan better together?
For a large group of residents and business owners from both communities, the answer is overwhelmingly “Yes!”
“We think the Cowichan Valley is better together,” says Patrick Hrushowy, of Cowichan Pro-Amalgamation. “We think that from a planning and land use perspective, what may have worked 100 years ago, doesn’t work today in our growing urban centre.”
On June 23, Duncan and North Cowichan residents will have their say on whether the two communities should amalgamate.
The vote stems from the recommendations from a 36-member citizens’ assembly that spent months considering the many facets of the issue before voting overwhelmingly – 34 members to 2 – to recommend amalgamation:
“We believe that amalgamating Duncan and North Cowichan into a single municipality will make possible lasting co-operation. Amalgamation will enhance the sustainability of our communities by strengthening our fiscal foundation and allow local government to pursue a more coordinated approach to encouraging economic growth, delivering efficient and effective public services, and ensuring that residents benefit from good local planning and strengthened environmental stewardship,” committee wrote in its final report.
“We believe amalgamation will ensure that local government in the Cowichan Valley pursues a common vision and that residents benefit from a harmonized approach to services, policies, and governance.”
Hrushowy said Cowichan Pro-Amalgamation doesn’t advocate amalgamation simply because of significant cost savings (not that it’s expected to increase taxes, either). Instead, from a planning, land-use and infrastructure perspective, it just makes sense.
Working together, the communities can far more easily and effectively address issues such as affordable housing, homelessness, and transportation in and around the whole region, he says.
“Essentially, Duncan serves as the downtown for North Cowichan, and we’ve reached the point where it just makes sense to approach these matters with one voice.”
That doesn’t mean the community of “Duncan” will disappear – far from it.
“Just as there’s a Maple Bay and a Chemainus within North Cowichan, there will always be a Duncan. That’s not going to change,” Hrushowy says.
What will change is the two mayors and councils, and two administrations, for example. Together, one mayor and six councillors would serve the greater community of about 30,000 people, Hrushowy says, urging residents to head to the polls June 23 and vote.
“This is their future and it’s really important that they get out and have their say,” Hrushowy says. “It’s good for planning, and good for democracy.”