Former mayor in favour of amalgamation
It is unfortunate that a usually entertaining Sharon Jackson is so vociferously against amalgamation.
My family has owned land and paid taxes in North Cowichan since 1960 and were often surprised that the provincial government had to appoint citizens to serve as councillors on Duncan council and may have appointed a mayor for lack of interest in these positions. I cannot recall anything similar happening in North Cowichan, probably because it has a larger population, 29,676 persons in 2016, which is expected to grow.
North Cowichan is a “community of communities,” and became a municipality in 1873. The people were mainly farmers and foresters by necessity in order to clear the land and the Indigenous people fished the river and the sea. When small businesses became established, their owners felt that other citizens did not fully understand their needs, so they asked for incorporation as a city in 1912, but asked to return to MNC in 1914 because the cost of maintaining roads was a heavy burden to its citizens. MNC stated that “you have made your bed and shall lie in it.” A copy of the letter is in the archives at MNC. The First World War put paid to any further discussion of the matter and it has remained dormant until now.
When I became mayor in 1996, the new planner asked me to identify all the communities in MNC; I came up with at least 15. The planner reduced these to eight “macro-communities”, (my description.) These are essentially self-sufficient communities with reasonable access to schools, groceries, fire protection, medical services, close to a business centre, recreation and parkland, all accessed by well-paved roads and served by a potable water supply with good pressure for fire-fighting, adequate sewage disposal and, of course, police protection.
Duncan will not lose its identity among MNC’s communities, South End, Hospital Hill, Mt. Prevost, Maple Bay, Crofton, Westholme, Chemainus and other self-identified communities. Even now, “Duncan” is used to describe most of the land between the Cowichan Bay turnoff on the Island Highway and Fuller Lake on both tourist maps and weather reports. We manage to survive this inaccuracy with rueful grins. However, both accuracy and efficient governance in the largest block of population in the Cowichan Valley will not only be in the best interest of the whole region, but will, hopefully encourage more amalgamation in the CVRD, making that body more efficient financially and in governance.
The largest areas of both heavy and light industry are in MNC; these tend to lower residential taxes, but more importantly, they provide employment and good wages. Will this last? If citizens are reading this newspaper and other daily papers, using paper bags and other paper products, building houses and other structures with wood, farming ,fishing, finding new ways to make a living for themselves and others, our region will continue to be an excellent place to live, do business and bring up families. This will not change with amalgamation, wherever it happens. We will simply have better, more efficient and effective governance and our well-beloved community names will continue to define their own distinctive spaces. There will be nothing to stop any citizen from tossing a hat into any municipal ring on election day, no matter where they live, work or play within the Cowichan Valley Regional District or elsewhere.
Temperate, civilized, adult discussion on the proposed topic of amalgamation is essential. This will set a good example for our young people of how matters of importance should be determined. This example was set by the 36 members of the Citizens’ Assembly who spent several months carefully examining all the possible aspects of amalgamation before deciding, in a majority vote, to recommend in favour of amalgamation and to bring the matter forward for a vote by citizens of both Duncan and North Cowichan to make a final decision.
I should make it clear that I have not held any political office for almost 20 years and am therefore not in conflict of interest while stating my support for amalgamation.