North Cowichan – I am responding to Councillor Barker’s guest column published earlier this month.
If it was amalgamation Councillor Martin Barker was talking about then he has my attention. I’m not sure North Cowichan politicians need much by way of convincing to discuss it either. It’s a good discussion, and he should have it often with his council and with the citizens of Duncan.
I’m certain it would be a nonstarter for North Cowichan, with the largest municipal land base on the Island, incorporated among the oldest in Western Canada, with six times the population of Duncan, to foist the amalgamation question onto Duncan’s agenda.
North Cowichan must see positive signals from Duncan to begin these long discussions.
Talk of reforming CVRD governance structures, (not certain this was Councillor Barker’s intention), is great coffee talk but would be a waste of valuable, local public resources. The CVRD may evolve in time on its own with population growth and political will but the province will not do away with regional districts.
I support Councillor Barker on amalgamation. North Cowichan can wait for the signal but it cannot remain idle. North Cowichan continues its work on local area planning flowing from the new Official Community Plan. The purpose is to create a climate for managed growth and gold standard service delivery. We strive to achieve our goals from foundations built in the Five-Year Financial Plan, capital investment plan, the economic development plan, the agricultural plan, and the environment plan, which all benchmark back to the OCP. This painstaking (and people wonder why our council meetings are so long) work is far from “fragmented”.
Councillor Barker complains of North Cowichan’s Tax Revitalization Bylaw (a form of tax-free zone).
I told council “I don’t like” the revitalization bylaw but I support it. I don’t like revitalization. I want to move our communities away from the need to be revitalized to what the academics now call “resilient”. I call it a nice place to call home.
Revitalization bylaws are in place to attract short-term, (not short-sighted) investment in areas that we want certain development and economic activity to take place in. Developers ought to take advantage of the incentive program before it’s gone.
Duncan council ought to consider directing its staff to chart a similar course and work with North Cowichan staff to learn the steps we took to get into a position where we could offer these incentives.
Duncan will learn through the process if it can sustain a short-term loss of fees to generate immediate investment in its core. Even if Duncan doesn’t venture down this road, all North Cowichan can do is stimulate a momentum of investment, hope it sticks, to produce the intended consequences of creating jobs, affordable housing, shopping, eating, and comfortable living in the core.