Mayor Richard Atwell warns against reading too much into the outcome of a recent amalgamation referendum.
“Referendums are not predictive,” he said, when asked about the outcome of the amalgamation referendum in Duncan. Its residents Saturday rejected amalgamation with North Cowichan with 835 voters against and 395 for the proposal.
Voters in North Cowichan supported amalgamation by a margin of 3,051 to 2,140 votes. Overall, turnout was about 30 per cent.
This outcome occurred just days before Saanich councillors will meet their counterparts from the City of Victoria Tuesday to discuss the wording of a question designed to test public support for future amalgamation talks.
The question co-drafted by Atwell and City of Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps currently reads as follows.
“Are you in favour of establishing a Citizens’ Assembly to explore the costs, benefits and disadvantages of the amalgamation between the District of Saanich and the City of Victoria?”
If approved, the question (or some version thereof) would appear on election ballots in Saanich and Victoria, when their residents head to the polls on Oct. 20.
Atwell, for his part, does not see this outcome as a setback for the future of amalgamation talks between Saanich and Victoria.
“Only in hindsight, after looking at the results do they [referenda] seem predictive,” he said. “They are just as predictive or non-predictive as elections.”
Shellie Gudgeon, chair of Amalgamation Yes, said her group is withholding official comment about the outcome of Duncan-North Cowichan referendum until after a board meeting Monday.This said, Gudgeon said her group is “satisfied that it was a thorough process and the voter has had their say.”
Supporters, but also critics of amalgamation, have looked to the Duncan-North Cowichan referendum for guidance to local developments.
Saturday’s vote marks the end of a process that started in November in 2014 when citizens in both communities endorsed a proposal to study amalgamation. This endorsement led to the creation of a citizens’ assembly, whose members first convened in January 2017. Following six sessions and public input, the assembly recommended amalgamation of the two communities in May 2017.
Saturday’s outcome denies the reunification of the two communities. Duncan had separated from North Cowichan in 1912 after 38 years of being one municipality. In the 1970s, the two municipalities considered amalgamating but decided to remain separate.