First steps have been taken towards a discussion of amalgamation between the Municipality of North Cowichan and the City of Duncan.
At the Dec. 16 meeting North Cowichan council appointed Coun. Al Siebring and Coun. Maeve Maguire to meet with their counterparts in Duncan to begin discussions about the composition and mandate of a Citizens Assembly, which would be formed to actually develop a proposal for amalgamation.
Duncan had already appointed Coun. Michelle Bell and Coun. Michelle Staples for the initial talks.
Voters in both municipalities were in favour of looking at amalgamation when the issue was put to them by referendum in the Nov. 2014 municipal elections.
In North Cowichan support was stronger, with 4,446 residents saying yes, 2,065 saying no. In Duncan 554 residents supported looking at the idea, 502 said no.
North Cowichan Director of Corporate Services Mark Ruttan said there’s a long way to go to arrive at a proposal that can be put to voters, likely in the 2018 municipal elections.
The representatives that have been chosen for the initial round of meetings will have to come up with recommendations about the terms of reference and composition of a Citizen’s Assembly, which will need approval by both councils.
The Citizen’s Assembly will then engage both communities, developing a proposal to be put to the voters. Ruttan said the working group may be able to make recommendations about the format and function of a Citizen’s Assembly to their respective councils by March.
Karen Robertson, director of corporate services in Duncan, also said there’s a lot of work to do. “It’s still pretty preliminary,” she said.
Cost and staffing implications, the structure of the municipal government that would emerge, representation on an amalgamated council, “All these things will be looked at so citizens can make an informed decision,” she said.