Neither Jon Lefebure nor Phil Kent said they were surprised with the results of the referendum on amalgamation, held on June 23.
Lefebure, mayor of Municipality of North Cowichan, said he wasn’t sure which way the vote would go, but he was prepared to deal with any scenario.
Kent, mayor of the City of Duncan, said the results were similar to the rejection of amalgamation of the two adjacent communities during the referendum on the issue held 45 years ago.
Kent, who declared he was voting “no” in the referendum days before the polls opened, said Duncan already has a good and collaborative working relationship with North Cowichan, and he expects that will continue as the two communities move forward together.
“I think people saw the benefits to the political structures that are in place, and many felt they are being represented in the way that they wish,” he said.
“The decision was made to split the two communities in 1912 and, the referendum shows, the citizens feel they are receiving services that work for them. They had a say, and they said it.”
Residents of North Cowichan voted in favour of amalgamation, but residents of Duncan voted strongly against it.
Votes were 3,051 for to 2,140 against in North Cowichan and 835 against to 395 for in Duncan.
In order for a single new municipality to be created, 50 per cent of the votes in both municipalities needed to favour amalgamation.
Lefebure, who never stated his preference before the referendum and continues to remain mum after the vote, said many people based their decision on the information provided by the impartial website, youdecide.ca.
“But for many it was a judgment call and they considered more tangible issues to them,” he said.
“For some Duncan residents, amalgamation was seen as the loss of their city’s autonomy, while others saw benefits in the greater security of being part of a larger entity.”
But, like Kent, Lefebure said it’s now time to “buckle down” and do the work that the citizens of both communities want and expect their local governments to do.
“We’ll continue to work together, build on our relationship and increase cooperation side-by-side as we work on our common interests,” he said.
Lefebure said he thinks the referenum was likely the last the Valley will hear of amalgamating Duncan and North Cowichan for some time.
But he said he wouldn’t be surprised if the issue arose again in the future.
“There are good reasons to consider amalgamation, and those reasons will still be there in the future,” he said.
“Other issues may come up as well. But I don’t see an appetite for another referendum for awhile so we’ll continue to work together and be good partners for each other.”