The amalgamation debate need to discuss real issues, not the made up ones: former councillor

Martin Barker has his own views on amalgamation.

The amalgamation debate need to discuss real issues, not the made up ones.

I recently read Sharon Jackson’s contribution to the no side of the amalgamation debate. I wonder where she get’s her ‘facts’. The Cowichan Valley has always viewed the core of Duncan to be it’s central hub. Why would future politicians choose to ignore something known by all the residents of the valley, by cancelling firework displays, community events and ignoring the already known fact that the city of Duncan is the core of the valley? Is she aware of those who attend Duncan’s firework display? Many if not most are from outside of Duncan’s town boundaries. Maybe residents of North Cowichan would be happy to subsidize Duncan’s Christmas efforts through their taxes. A city Hall may disappear, with clear reductions in tax payer expense as a benefit. People will still be able to attend council meetings, make complaints and conveniently pay bills.

I also wonder where Ms. Jackson feels the drop in service levels will occur? Both municipalities already operate at a pretty high level of cooperation/integration. And I am not aware of any existing difference in service levels between the municipalities. Civic cultures? It seems to me that there is much more of ‘an old boy’s/girl’s club’ in Duncan. Perhaps she is more worried about loosing her job. The truth is, it is much easier for special interest to dominate Duncan’s Civic culture because the relatively few votes needed to get elected (generally about 550).

What particularly disturbs me though is the blatant untruth about the fire department. Reference can be made to the Citizen’s Assembly and to the recent webpage that any additional costs of fire service will be at the direction of future councils; amalgamation is not an issue in the cost of fire protection. Our current system and paid volunteers are actually the most cost effective means of running a fire department. In fact both services already integrate and assist in responses and does not have to change with amalgamation.

And the water issue, really Sharon? The water sources are clearly not going to change with amalgamation. Most of the southend is already supplied with ‘Duncan water’. And ‘boil water’ advisories? North Cowichan very rightly took leadership of that file many years ago and solved the issue. Perhaps it will be ‘Cowichan’ water that will be getting accolades in the future.

It is true that Duncan will loose the small community grant, but that will be offset by the reduction of political (including Sharon’s) and executive salaries. North Cowichan residents would get access to Duncan’s considerable reserve fund and Duncanites would get access to an industrial tax base. It could be very strongly argued that the ‘police bridging fund’ should have been returned to tax payers when it became apparent that Duncan was not growing several years ago. I don’t see the unnecessary collection of millions of dollars of tax payer funds as ‘frugal’. Municipal taxes will be relatively unchanged in North Cowichan (Chemainiacs may pay about $200/year more), a steep reduction in Duncan business tax with a generally small raise in business tav in North Cowichan (the numbers seem bigger because of the size of North Cowichan business). Duncanites will likely pay less civiic tax. Some amalgamated communities do indeed have higher taxes, some lower, just like non-amalgamated communities. Many communities flourish and some do not. The main driver of the effectiveness of an amalgamation, just like regular communities relies upon the quality of the political leadership.

I would think good leadership begins by having your residents needs at heart and a propensity to try not to mislead your community.

Martin Barker