Duncan-North Cowichan Citizens' Assembly Endorses Amalgamation
Wednesday May 24, 2017 | For immediate release
Last night, at a special meeting of the City of Duncan and Municipality of North Cowichan Councils, the Duncan-North Cowichan Citizens' Assembly on Municipal Amalgamation released its final report calling for the amalgamation of the two municipalities following a referendum to be held no later than autumn 2018.
The Assembly was a special initiative commissioned by both Duncan and North Cowichan Councils and had a mandate to learn about the needs and interests of local residents, examine the implications of creating a new, amalgamated municipal structure, and advise local councillors and their administrations on the conditions under which the municipalities should proceed.
In December, 10,000 households across the Cowichan Valley were randomly selected by Canada Post to receive a letter inviting residents to volunteer for the Assembly. 277 households responded indicating their interest in the process, of which 144 individuals volunteered to serve on the Assembly.
From this pool of candidates, 36 Assembly members were selected in a blind draw designed to produce a gender-balanced Assembly that roughly matches the demographic profile of both communities.
The Assembly met over six Saturdays from January until April, and hosted two public meetings open to all residents. The Assembly also received a detailed technical report, which examined the implications and likely financial impact of amalgamation.
During deliberations, Assembly members heard from more than 20 speakers including experts in municipal governance, as well as local business, civic and Indigenous leaders.
"The Assembly is mindful that their recommendation carries significant implications and that this is a major undertaking," says Peter MacLeod, Assembly chair. "Nevertheless, the Assembly reached a clear consensus and believes that Duncan and North Cowichan will be stronger together."
The Assembly cited a number of benefits to amalgamation and expects that a unified municipality will be better able to manage future growth, afford quality public services and infrastructure, and attract outside investment.
The Assembly also noted that the likely costs or savings to come from amalgamation are negligible and would have only a modest impact. Instead, they believe residents will benefit from a more coordinated approach to local governance and planning.
The Assembly was also careful to underscore the importance of protecting the area's many distinct communities. It believes the character of these communities can be preserved and enhanced through the development of a new Official Community Plan as well as local area plans.
"This is only the first step towards amalgamation," says MacLeod. "The Citizens' Assembly has worked very diligently on behalf of all residents to provide both Councils with a considered and detailed recommendation. Hopefully, both Councils will endorse amalgamation and should that happen, provincial legislation requires that the decision be affirmed in a public referendum. In many ways, this is still the start of the conversation."
A copy of the Assembly's Report, the Technical Report and other resources including FAQs concerning the process can be found on the Citizens' Assembly website: dnc-cama.ca