Duncan residents reject proposal to amalgamate city and North Cowichan

The world's largest hockey stick hangs over the entrance to the community centre arena in Duncan, BC, Canada. Don Denton/TCPI/The Canadian Press

Duncan residents have rejected a proposal to merge the city with the District Municipality of North Cowichan, its neighbour to the north.

In a referendum on Saturday, 835 Duncan voters rejected amalgamation, while 395 people supported it. In North Cowichan, 3,051 voters supported the idea, while 2,140 opposed it.

In order to proceed, both municipalities would have had to approve the idea.

LISTEN: Duncan says no to amalgamation
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Area residents had voted in favour of looking into the possibility of a merger during the 2014 municipal election, which culminated in the creation of a Citizens’ Assembly on the matter.

The assembly recommended amalgamation, arguing the region would benefit from a single council, streamlined regulations and bylaws, a level playing field for businesses and a unified community plan.

Speaking on CKNW’s The Jill Bennett Show, Duncan Mayor Phil Kent said voters in his city sent a clear message.

READ MORE: There are 2 North Vancouvers. There should be only 1, say some

He said as the region’s urban centre, Duncan has its own unique issues and identity, and that the efficiencies and savings outlined in the citizens’ assembly report on the merger were by no means guaranteed.

But he said the two municipalities already cooperate in a number of areas and will continue to do so.

“I think we could be held up as the poster child to look at sharing delivery of services and collaborating on the issues that have the most impact,” he said.

Mayor Jon Lefebure of North Cowichan agreed.

READ MORE: B.C. municipal election 2018: Duncan

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“What’s really important is that we have worked together really well in the past and we will continue to do so in the future,” he said.

He said the two communities already share management of water and recreational services, along with policing.

Lefebure said Cowichan residents may have been more supportive of the merger idea because many of them live in Greater Duncan, meaning they already have Duncan addresses and phone numbers.

With a clear result in the vote, both Lefebure and Kent said the idea is now off the table for the foreseeable future.

“Will it be revisited soon? No. But what we will do is commit to working together in those communities of interest to help deliver the best services for people,” Kent said.

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