The question that will be asked of the citizens of North Cowichan and Duncan in the referendum on June 23 will be simple and straight forward.
In the letter sent by the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs Selina Robinson to both municipalities last week giving permission for the referendum on amalgamating the two communities, Robinson said the official question will be “Do you support the Corporation of the District of North Cowichan and the Corporation of the City of Duncan amalgamating into a new municipality?”
Hopes had been high that the referendum would be held sometime in early April, but it took longer than anticipated for Robinson to approve the process.
In the letter Robinson said that staff at her ministry have been working alongside local government staff to ensure that the statutory processes related to an assent vote can be carried out in the given time frame for the referendum, given the requirements under the Local Government Act.
“I acknowledge that an assent vote is a resource-intensive process and I appreciate that both municipalities are of the view that they can be ready for the vote,” she said.
“An important focus will be to ensure that the electorate has access to the information they need to make an informed decision when voting.”
To ensure the public has the opportunity to access information related to the upcoming referendum, an impartial information campaign led by an external consultant will begin in May to provide information to the public in the weeks leading up to the referendum.
Residents are expected to be able to seek answers to their questions through a number of channels, including a dedicated website, a call-in line and several open houses, then determine for themselves whether the two municipalities should amalgamate.
Robinson said she will send both municipalities an “Offer of Restructure Assistance” in late April.
The intent of the Offer is to help mitigate some of the interim and transitional costs related to governance change.
Typically in restructuring projects like an amalgamation, the Offer is shared with the electorate in advance of a vote as it contains important information about the financial and in-kind support that would be available to the new municipality, if that is the choice made by the voters.
There is no information at this time as to how much financial and other assistance the ministry will offer.
“I am very pleased to support the Municipality of North Cowichan and the City of Duncan at arriving at this important stage in the process of considering future governance,” Robinson said.