If the City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan were to amalgamate, what would the new, combined municipality be called?
This is just one of the many questions that elected officials, staff and residents would have to consider if the majority of voters decide they want to amalgamate during the referendum, expected in the spring of 2018, according to a report presented to both councils last week.
Prepared by Vancouver’s Urban Systems and called “Amalgamation Study Technical Analysis Report”, the analysis covers many aspects of amalgamation, while highlighting the issues other communities who amalgamated have experienced.
The report also points out that the area is described as a community of communities that includes Chemainus, Crofton, Maple Bay, Sahtlam, Quamichan Lake, Duncan, and Genoa Bay so many residents are understandably concerned about how a municipal restructure may impact their community’s identity.
The report states that ward systems are often cited as a way to protect unique neighbourhood identities, but support for vibrant neighbourhoods can be buttressed through council decisions that respect and promote neighbourhood identity, as well as citizen engagement and activism.
Duncan mayor Phil Kent said people are already asking a lot of questions around amalgamation and what it would mean for them and the communities.
He said the report from Urban Systems will help put many of the questions in perspective and assist Duncan and North Cowichan in providing answers as part of the upcoming public information process on amalgamation.
Both councils have recently issued a request for proposals to hire a consultant to help prepare information for the public on the issue.
“We’ve decided that the referendum will be held in the spring of 2018, so we only have a brief time to prepare the information to present to the public,” Kent said.
“We hope we’ll be able to answer as many questions during that process as we can. As for a new name (for the amalgamated municipality if the referendum is successful), I think that discussion would likely happen after the referendum.”
The amalgamation of Duncan and North Cowichan was recommended by the Citizen’s Assembly in May.
The 36-member assembly cited a number of benefits to amalgamation, but noted the cost-savings to taxpayers from such a move would be “negligible”.
As part of the 2014 municipal elections, both Duncan and North Cowichan councils agreed to include on the ballot a non-binding opinion question in regards to exploring the costs and benefits of amalgamating the two municipalities.
In North Cowichan, 68 per cent of those casting ballots voted in favour of conducting an amalgamation study, and in Duncan, 52 per cent of voters were also in favour.