The referendum on the amalgamation of the City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan will be held on June 23.
After an unexpectedly long review of the issue, B.C.’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson has finally given the green light for the referendum to proceed early this summer.
“We have been anticipating the arrival of this letter [from Robinson] and are pleased that the province has declared a referendum date,” said North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure.
“Residents now have the opportunity to shape the future of our communities and we are eager to learn the result of their votes.”
An impartial information campaign led by an external consultant will begin in May to provide information to the public in the weeks leading up to the referendum on June 23.
Residents are expected to be able to seek answers to their questions through a number of channels, including a dedicated website, a call-in line and several open houses, then determine for themselves whether the two municipalities should amalgamate.
“It is very important that people become fully informed and seek clarification on any remaining questions they may have,” said Duncan Mayor Phil Kent.
“I encourage everyone to participate fully in the process and then make their own determination.”
Hopes had been high that the referendum would be held sometime in early April, but it took longer than anticipated for Robinson to approve the process.
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.
Amalgamation of the two communities was recommended by the 36-member Citizen’s Assembly last spring after a lengthy review.
The assembly cited a number of benefits to amalgamation, but said the cost-savings to taxpayers from such a move would be “negligible”.
Both councils decided to hold the referendum, pending permission from the ministry, and had indicated that holding the vote in the spring of 2018 was preferable.