As communities, we have grown and thrived by being welcoming to new and diverse residents and businesses. We have been able to do so despite our defined political boundaries established over a century ago. Community is not defined by our political boundaries, but by the values, vision and places we identify with.
I applaud the work of the Citizens Assembly, a model that I firmly support. I have always believed that a community should be developed and driven by its stakeholders. What has been missed in this process, unfortunately, is the ability of the Citizens Assembly to fully explore the opportunities to reflect on the community as it exists today; to consider the realities of an increasingly complex society, and the ability to respond to the needs and services required to become resilient in a fast paced and ever-changing environment. I believe that a much deeper conversation was needed to follow the Assembly’s work to determine what we hope to collectively accomplish and to identify both our goals and aspirations.
The Assembly had been constrained by their terms of reference; no other data was studied or explored as possible alternatives to a simple merger. In 2014, the City had asked its residents two questions regarding governance yet, unfortunately, the Municipality of North Cowichan did not offer that opportunity for its citizens to weigh out alternatives to a simple merger.
Defining a vision regarding issues like transportation, development growth, our regional economy, and the environment are key to the region’s future. These issues are not mutually exclusive to the City of Duncan or to North Cowichan. There will always be another jurisdiction and community of interest that we need to consult and work with collaboratively in order to reach our goals. We already have the tools required to succeed; picking the right ones depends on what we want to build. An amalgamation is unlikely to be successful if there isn’t at least some agreement and goodwill toward where we are going on all of these critical issues. If we continually work toward creating solutions for these challenges, the right structures will become obvious.
We have already had many great successes working together across jurisdictions; Cowichan Place/University Village; new recreation and community facilities, flood protection, sewage treatment, to name a few.
My vote is for a future with a balanced economy, wherein citizens and businesses have the right infrastructures and amenities to take advantage of their opportunities; and to be able to sustain themselves. My vote is for an environment wherein health of citizens can be provided for, and one that connects all its diverse people and generations.
There are many citizens in the greater Duncan area with an interest who have been left on the sideline of this conversation. Without shared goals and vision we will flounder endlessly in political squabble while opportunity passes us by.
“Unity and Progress” is our City’s motto. Collaboratively, and with our neighbours, we have achieved important progress that benefits us all.
I have grave concerns that this current proposal’s promise of “better” is vague at best, and that any transition will be challenging and disruptive were this initiative approved.
I am confident that whatever the outcome of the referendum on June 23, the citizens will be right, and that I will continue to contribute to, and promote our needs. The City has a vibrant and strong pride for its history, and contribution to the entire region.
I have reviewed very thoughtfully the reports of the Citizens Assembly.
Without a deeper more inclusive dialogue on the objectives, I cannot support the amalgamation.
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Phil Kent, Mayor
City of Duncan