Moving forward from unintended consequences

Duncan – I read with great pleasure Anne Murray’s synopsis and opinion on some of the unique issues that face the Valley and would wholeheartedly agree with her view point.

When I prepared my business plan 10 years ago, there was an apparent over abundance of professionals in my field for the City of Duncan. As someone who knew the region, I thought this was wonderful as so many of my peers would be scouring the demographic data looking for favourable places to practice and Duncan would not be one of them. On the flip, or more realistic side of things, this means a lot of businesses will choose not to come here after doing the same demographic research that my peers did.

Economically, it is also difficult to create one plan, or vision, for our community. As a city councillor the recent commitment by North Cowichan for the waving of development cost charges (DCC fees) in certain areas for new businesses is likely to hurt the surrounding communities, and especially the City of Duncan.

I don’t want this to be taken as a slight against North Cowichan’s decision, as it can be good economic policy to promote business development in specific regions and they are entirely entitled to make decisions based on the best interest of their electorate; however, a small community like Duncan does not have the tax base to wave DCC fees for our developments (waived fees are ultimately borne by taxpayers’ pockets). The result may be a shift of business from the Valley’s core, the City of Duncan, to North Cowichan. To me, it seems absurd that we are “competitors”.

That said, both Duncan and North Cowichan have taken steps to create better communications with the initiation of twice a year joint council meetings and, currently, are working on a joint resolution agreement.

Duncan has taken the idea of integrated servicing a step further by examining the possibility, as part of the proposed strategic plan, to look for opportunities to share services with surrounding communities in an effort to increase service and reduce cost to Duncan residents.

These are very positive steps, but I am not sure they go far enough. We have a fragmented vision for our community that has many competing levels of governance that make consensus, at times, difficult. We should be examining a different form of governance for our beautiful Valley but I fear that it will never be possible without a groundswell of grass roots resident lobbying to motivate our politicians to move toward a new and better system (likely with less politicians in it).

With only a year remaining to our next municipal election, now is the time to begin pressuring our elected leaders for necessary change.

The views in this commentary are those of Dr. Barker and not of Duncan town council.

Martin Barker