The City of Duncan is expected to hold a vote on when the referendum on amalgamation with the Muncipality of North Cowichan should be held at the next council meeting on Aug. 21. (File photo)

The City of Duncan is expected to hold a vote on when the referendum on amalgamation with the Muncipality of North Cowichan should be held at the next council meeting on Aug. 21. (File photo)

Duncan expected to hold amalgamation vote on Aug. 21

Council to decide to hold the vote either next spring or during the next municipal elections

The City of Duncan’s seven-person council is expected to decide when it wants to hold the referendum on the amalgamation of Duncan and North Cowichan at its next meeting on Aug. 21.

Council had debated whether to hold the referendum next spring or at the same time as the next municipal elections on Oct. 20, 2018, at its last meeting in July.

But a motion to hold it next spring was defeated due to a tie vote because councillor Michelle Staples was absent from the meeting.

Mayor Phil Kent said procedural protocol dictates that a motion must be brought forth for reconsideration within 30 days of a tie vote, or it can’t be reconsidered for another six months.

North Cowichan’s council decided that it would rather hold the referendum next spring at its last meeting in July.

“We’re hoping that all council members will be at the table for this discussion and vote at our next meeting on Aug 21,” Kent said.

“Time is really of the essence here. If any councillors can’t be physically present at the meeting, we’ll have them set up to be at the table electronically.”

The amalgamation of Duncan and North Cowichan was recommended by the Citizen’s Assembly in May.

The 36-member assembly cited a number of benefits to amalgamation, but noted the cost-savings to taxpayers from such a move would be “negligible”.

As part of the 2014 municipal elections, both Duncan and North Cowichan councils agreed to include on the ballot a non-binding opinion question in regards to exploring the costs and benefits of amalgamating the two municipalities.

In North Cowichan, 68 per cent of those casting ballots voted in favour of conducting an amalgamation study, and in Duncan, 52 per cent of voters were also in favour.

Both municipalities must agree to when the referendum should be held, and the province must sign off on it, before the vote can proceed.

In the meantime, Kent said Duncan’s council has sent a list of questions regarding the referendum that it would like answered before the vote on Aug. 21 to the Citizens’ Assembly’s working group, which includes two councillors from each municipality.

“We want some clarity in the process around how the public will be engaged, the timelines of the referendum and the costs involved,” he said.