Significant downsides to amalgamation for Duncan
I hope the people of Duncan think hard before agreeing to merge with North Cowichan. The Cowichan Valley area should be looking at a boundary realignment not amalgamation. Enlarging the City of Duncan’s urban boundaries and leaving the District of North Cowichan to deal with the rural and village areas makes sense. Duncan has an urban core with issues and demographics unlike any that North Cowichan has had to deal with. Instead of an even larger conglomeration of diverse and conflicting interests there really should be two distinct areas.
I am concerned about the future of downtown Duncan if amalgamation is approved. I think downtown Duncan will suffer significantly when tax revenues are spread over a much wider area than at the present time. We have all seen the commercial cores of communities deteriorate because of bad local decision making. Next thing you know taxes have to increase to pay for Downtown Revitalization.
Contrary to some who say there will be great cost savings from amalgamation I strongly suspect that there will be significant costs associated with amalgamation, and not just transitional costs but ongoing ones as well. Many of these costs will be due to trying to integrate bylaws, practices and procedures of the two divergent municipalities. A lot of money will be paid to consultants.
There are many research papers prepared on the results, and costs, of amalgamation. Look at the report “Municipal Amalgamation in Ontario”, (https://www.fraserinstitute.org/research/municipal-amalgamation-ontario). Also, just Google “successes and failures of municipal amalgamation” to obtain other overviews of the subject.
Personally, I think the competitiveness of these two municipalities has led to many improvements for both areas. I wonder where things such as recycling, organics collection, yard waste and glass pick-up, fresh untreated water, climate change initiatives, humane pet treatment bylaws, etc. would be were it not for one municipality goading the other do the right thing. With amalgamation, I fear this competitiveness will evolve into complacency and a lack of progress.
former Duncan CAO & Professional Planner