North Cowichan council sets referendum question

Are you in favour of conducting a study to explore the costs and benefits of amalgamation of the municipalities of North Cowichan and the City of Duncan?

That’s the simplified question that North Cowichan councillors finally agreed to on Wednesday.

They’ve been kicking around several ideas, both before and after consulting with their colleagues at the City of Duncan, but it still took time this week to come down to that question.

They had looked at the idea of putting a dollar figure for a study into the question but pulled back from it, for a variety of reasons.

Coun. Ruth Hartmann has adamantly stuck to one position during these discussions: other places have done it already and North Cowichan should look at their reports and seek their advice before spending any money for more studies.

"We don’t need to re-invent the wheel," she said.

However, Coun. Jen Woike, who managed to steer the simplified question through to approval, said she thought actual money figures should be left to the newly elected council because any decisions will be up to them anyway.

Coun. Al Siebring disagreed.

"A dollar figure gives a stronger mandate, provides a little more clarity," he said.

However, most agreed with Coun. Barb Lines, who said, "how deep we go into costs could be discussed further later."

"I very much agree," said Mayor Jon Lefebure, pointing out that whatever result comes to that new council, "the first thing they would do would be to ask for a report from staff on the likely cost of a study."

The City of Duncan is looking at a different slant on a question because the councillors there want information about boundary realignment as well.