Voters in North Cowichan and Duncan are taking to the polls on Saturday to determine if the two communities will amalgamate. (File photo)

Voters in North Cowichan and Duncan are taking to the polls on Saturday to determine if the two communities will amalgamate. (File photo)

Referendum on Duncan, North Cowichan amalgamation tomorrow

Citizens in Duncan and North Cowichan take to the polls

Citizens of urban Duncan and its sprawling neighbour North Cowichan will decide tomorrow if they want to join forces.

The amalgamation of Duncan (population 4,944) and North Cowichan (population 29,676, including Chemainus, Crofton, Maple Bay and much of what outsiders probably consider as Duncan) has been recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly, a group of 36 citizens from both municipalities that were randomly chosen to participate.

After months of research, the assembly’s final report was presented at a special meeting of Duncan and North Cowichan elected officials on May 23, 2017.

The assembly cited a number of benefits to amalgamation, but said the cost-savings to taxpayers from such a move would be “negligible.”

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To ensure the public had the opportunity to access information related to tomorrow’s referendum, an impartial information campaign led by an external consultant began in May to provide information to the public in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s vote.

In B.C., in order for an amalgamation to take place, it must be approved by more than 50 per cent of voters in each municipality.

Should a majority of voters choose amalgamation, the province would have the final say after reviewing the voting results.

If the referendum is in favour of amalgamation, a new council, consisting of one mayor and six councillors, will be elected during the municipal elections in October.

When council members from both Duncan and North Cowichan were asked what their opinions of amalgamation were when the referendum was first announced, no members of North Cowichan’s council gave an opinion.

But in Duncan’s council, John Horgan, who recently died, and Roger Bruce were in favour, while Sharon Jackson and Tom Duncan said they were not.

But many other council members have since made public comments on where they stand on the question.

Duncan Mayor Phil Kent has said he intends to vote no, while North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure has not made his position public.

North Cowichan councillors Al Siebring, Joyce Behnsen and Tom Walker have said they intend to vote yes tomorrow.

Other notable citizens who have stated where they stand on amalgamation include Duncan’s former long-time mayor Mike Coleman and Tom Ireland, Duncan’s former CAO, who said they will vote no.

Tanya Ablonczy, a member of the Citizen’s Assembly, is voting no, while Cowichan Valley school board chairwoman Candace Spilsbury, and former North Cowichan councillors Garret Elliot and Jen Woike, are voting yes.

There has already been two advanced polls in the referendum, with a total of 871 voters casting their ballots, and the Chief Election Officer has confirmed that is higher than the turnout for advance voting days in the local elections of 2014 and 2011.

There will be one polling station in Duncan tomorrow, and six in the larger North Cowichan, and all of them will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The one in Duncan, which will be for Duncan residents only, will be at the Duncan Fire Department at 468 Duncan St.

The polling stations in North Cowichan, which are also only for residents of that municipality, are the Chemainus Seniors Drop-in Centre at 9824 Willow St., the Quamichan campus of Cowichan Secondary School at 2515 Beverly St., Crofton Elementary School at 8017 York Ave., École Mount Prevost Elementary at 6177 Somenos Rd., Maple Bay Elementary School at 1500 Donnay Dr. and at the North Cowichan Municipal Hall at 7030 Trans Canada Hwy.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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