Duncan city councillor Roger Bruce was a big proponent of amalgamation. (Citizen file)

Year in Review: The vote was “no” on amalgamation of Duncan and North Cowichan

Vote was held on June 23

Voters in both North Cowichan and Duncan rejected amalgamating the two communities in a referendum on the issue that was held on June 23.

Votes were 3,051 for to 2,140 against in North Cowichan and 835 against to 395 for in Duncan in the long-anticipated referendum, but in order for a single new municipality to be created, at least 50 per cent of the votes in both municipalities were needed to favour amalgamation.

RELATED STORY: AMALGAMATION FAILS IN NORTH COWICHAN AND DUNCAN

As part of the municipal elections in 2014, 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 Citizens’ Assembly, a group of 36 citizens from both municipalities, that were randomly chosen to study the concept, in the spring of 2017 after a lengthy review.

RELATED STORY: CITIZEN’S ASSEMBLY VOTES FOR AMALGAMATION

Assembly members concluded that a unified municipality would be better able to manage future growth, afford quality public services and infrastructure, and attract outside investment.

The assembly also reported that its members felt that residents would benefit from a more coordinated approach to local governance and planning.

But assembly members also indicated that their research concluded that the cost-savings to taxpayers from amalgamation would be “negligible”.

As the referendum approached, two groups formed, one advocating for the “yes” side to amalgamation and the other the “no” side, last spring.

The Cowichan Pro-Amalgamation group, led by Patrick Hrushowy, had the view that both communities would benefit from amalgamation and set up a website, Facebook page and placed radio and newspaper ads encouraging voters to vote ‘Yes’.

RELATED STORY: THIRD-PARTY PRO-AMALGAMATION CAMPAIGN ANNOUNCED

The Cowichan No-Amalgamation group, spearheaded by former Duncan city councillor Sharon Jackson, also began an information campaign and said that it was predicted that the true cost of amalgamation would be approximately $22 million.

RELATED STORY: GROUP FORMS TO FIGHT AMALGAMATION

The CNA group said that this was much more than the $11 million that the province had agreed to give to help with the costs of joining the two communities together.

In the days leading up to the referendum on June 23, former Duncan Mayor Phil Kent also came out against amalgamation.

RELATED STORY: DUNCAN MAYOR SAYS ‘NO’ TO AMALGAMATION

In a letter, Kent said he applauded the work of the Citizen’s Assembly and that he has always believed that a community should be developed and driven by its stakeholders.

“But what has been missed in this process, unfortunately, is the ability of the Citizens’ Assembly to fully explore the opportunities to reflect on the community as it exists today; to consider the realities of an increasingly complex society, and the ability to respond to the needs and services required to become resilient in a fast paced and ever-changing environment,” Kent said.

“I believe that a much deeper conversation was needed to follow the Assembly’s work to determine what we hope to collectively accomplish and to identify both our goals and aspirations. Without a deeper more inclusive dialogue on the objectives, I cannot support the amalgamation.”

Jon Lefebure, the former mayor of North Cowichan, never stated his preference before the referendum and continued to remain mum after the vote.

But in the aftermath of the referendum, 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.

RELATED STORY: COWICHAN VALLEY MAYORS NOT SURPRISED WITH REFERENDUM RESULTS

“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 thought the referendum was likely the last the Cowichan 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.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

The amalgamation of North Cowichan and Duncan was rejected by voters in a referendum on June 23. (File photo)

Just Posted

Local Cowichan youth shines in national writing contest

Cowichan Tribe member Danika Smith places fifth in her category in Indigenous Arts & Stories contest

Child hit and killed in driveway in Cobble Hill

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Cobble Hill’s Price sprints to first Dirt Cup championship

Robbie Price’s first win on the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series… Continue reading

Cowichan police warn of cryptocurrency scam

More than $64,000 in losses so far

Campers hailed heroes in rock face rescue at Cowichan Provincial Park

The campers quickly noticed the man in distress and jumped into the river to swim across.

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

PHOTOS: North Island home gutted in fire deemed ‘suspicious’

No injuries reported; firefighters prevented blaze from spreading

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

Vancouver Island woman assaulted after confronting thief

RCMP warn residents to call for police assistance

Island Health issues safer drug-use tips ahead of music festival season

Health authority aims to reduce overdose risks at festivals

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Vancouver Aquarium drops cetacean ban lawsuit in new lease agreement

Ocean Wise CEO Lasse Gustavsson called the updated lease an exciting new chapter for the aquarium

Most Read