Warren Goulding column: City of Duncan cuts hurting businesses

Recent decisions reminders of this council’s well-deserved reputation for being anti-business

Sometimes it seems as though Duncan’s city councillors have decided to declare their domain as an island unto its own.

Recent decisions coming out of the humble council chambers are reminders that this council’s well-deserved reputation for being anti-business and reluctant to pay its fair share for recreation and other amenities is intact.

I suspect it has a great deal to do with a lack of understanding of how the Cowichan Valley functions as a community and the vital role small and medium-sized businesses play in the larger picture.

Coun. Tom Duncan led the move to deny the Cowichan Sportsplex’s request for a $25,000 contribution to help finance the new $1.5 million field house.

Duncan’s logic goes like this: the City of Duncan already contributes $15,000 annually for the operation of the Sportsplex and supplies water at a value of $20,000. Most important, in Duncan’s mind, is this assertion: “It’s a fact that only about 10 per cent of the population of the city uses that track.”

On another recent matter, Duncan led the “debate” on whether the city should continue to support the Visitor Centre, owned and managed by the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber asked for $22,000 and council agreed to provide funding for this year but Coun. Duncan is not happy with the arrangement.

Perhaps he’s stilled miffed that the Visitor Centre moved out of downtown Duncan six years ago, all the way up to North Cowichan, a full seven minutes from the downtown core.

Duncan’s reasoning on this one: “We’re at a point now where the City of Duncan, with only 5,000 residents, are paying an unfair proportional amount.”

Unless the Chamber comes back with a more favourable proposal, Duncan warned, the funding could be dramatically reduced to somewhere in the neighbourhood of $5,000.

It’s this parochial, shortsighted logic that is so worrisome.

Imagine for a moment, Canada’s tiniest city wasn’t surrounded by the recreation and cultural facilities-rich Municipality of North Cowichan and the CVRD.

There would be no Aquatic Centre, no Cowichan Performing Arts Centre, no arenas, no Sportsplex and so on.

Imagine the barren landscape that would no longer provide recreation and entertainment for the (cleverly) just-under 5,000 residents of this tiny city. Sure, it’s a hypothetical concept, but the point is the City of Duncan is fortunate that these facilities are in place and its financial contribution is modest.

Citizen reader Joan Green made the point that the City of Duncan doesn’t understand the importance of supporting activity and recreation as contributing to healthy lifestyles.

She added: “This definitely makes me think twice about where I do my holiday shopping this year.”

Businesses in the downtown core of Duncan should be concerned about comments like that.

Warren Goulding is the publisher of the Cowichan Valley Citizen

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