British Columbia

Amalgamation between North Cowichan and Duncan voted down in referendum

North Cowichan said yes, Duncan said no to merging the Vancouver Island communities into one larger municipality.

Other Vancouver Island municipalities still grappling with question of merging

Roughly 59 per cent of residents in North Cowichan voted for the amalgamation while 68 per cent of people in Duncan voted against it. (www.citiestips.com)

A plan to merge the Vancouver Island communities of North Cowichan and Duncan was voted down in a referendum on the weekend.

North Cowichan voted for the plan but Duncan said no — and both districts needed to support the idea for it to pass.

Duncan Mayor Phil Kent said the objectives of amalgamation needed to be more clear to win over his municipality, pointing out that the two districts already work together on issues from recreation to water systems.

"The relationship to date has been very good and very collaborative," Kent said. 

"I saw very little in terms of financial benefit for a merged municipality." 

Duncan was formerly a part of the Municipality of North Cowichan but split off to become a separate city in 1912.

Size difference

Jon Lefebure, mayor of North Cowichan, said he was not surprised by the results because "there wasn't sufficient change either way to have a black and white opinion on things."

Roughly 59 per cent of residents in North Cowichan voted for the amalgamation while 68 per cent of people in Duncan voted against it.

The size difference between the two municipalities may have played a role in the outcome, Lefebure said.

While the District of North Cowichan has about 30,000 residents and is 195 square kilometres in size, the City of Duncan has a population of 5,000 and is two square kilometres in size.

"I thought it might come down to whether the citizens of Duncan though they were going to lose some autonomy or some of their sense of identity," Lefebure said.

Possible future mergers 

North Cowichan and Duncan are not the only two municipalities on Vancouver Island grappling with the question of amalgamation.

On Tuesday, Victoria and Saanich are holding a joint committee to craft a ballot question to ask voters in the October municipal election whether a citizens assembly should be formed to explore the issue.

Shellie Gudgeon, chair of the Greater Victoria advocacy group Amalgamation Yes, said she is "disappointed" by the results of the vote between North Cowichan and Duncan.

She doesn't believe, however, that it will hold any weight over the issue between other municipalities.

Voters in Victoria and Saanich may soon be asked if they want the municipalities to pursue the idea of amalgamation. (Capital Regional District)

"It's an example of a larger municipality and a very small municipality," Gudgeon said.

"The Victoria and Saanich discussion [will] be entirely different — they are two very large municipalities and I think that there will be different issues that come up with it."

With files from On The Island and All Points West.

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