Time is running out for plans to hold the amalgamation referendum between the City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan this spring.
North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure said the two municipalities are still waiting to receive the final approval for the referendum from B.C.’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson.
Hopes had been high that the referendum would be held sometime in early April, but Lefebure said that is now looking unlikely.
He said an appropriate amount of time between the government’s approval of the referendum and the referendum itself must be set aside to allow for public information sessions to be held so that residents can be educated in the details of amalgamation before they cast their votes.
“There’s still the potential that the referendum can be held before this summer if we get that decision soon but, if not, the next logical time for it would be at the same time as the municipal elections in October,” Lefebure said.
“We just don’t know at this stage when or what the province will decide.”
Robinson told both municipalities late last year that there were a number steps they must complete before she can approve the referendum.
They included a better sense of costs and resources that would be available during the transition to a single municipality, more information on how Duncan and North Cowichan would operate in the time between the referendum and the actual amalgamation (if approved), and a framework on how the new inaugural single council would be developed during the transition period.
But, despite a flurry of letters between the minister and the municipalities since then, approval for the referendum still has not been granted.
The ministry’s response to questions from the Citizen on the issue was vague and noncommittal.
“We understand there is enthusiasm in both communities to move quickly on a referendum vote,” a statement from the ministry said.
“The ministry is working with the municipalities to ensure that voters have the information they need about how those aspects of transition would be managed before they make a decision on the path forward. We want to be certain that voters and the municipalities are clear on what would happen next if amalgamation is endorsed by the voters in each community, and hope to be in that position soon.”