Artist’s rendering of proposed new North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP building. A group formed to oppose spending $48 million on the building claims it’s too extravagant.(Photo submitted)

Group forms in opposition to spending on new RCMP building

Flaws in the voting process identified by North Cowichan residents

Local citizens have formed a group, with the express purpose of urging North Cowichan residents to oppose the proposed borrowing of $48 million for a new North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP building.

Among the group are former North Cowichan Councillor Joyce Behnsen and Allen Willcocks, a former quantity surveyor with the federal government.

Willcocks has extensive expertise in budgeting and expenditure-control for the construction of RCMP and other federal buildings. He is of the firm opinion the proposed cost of the new building is completely out of line, according to a press release put out by the group.

Willcocks notes the cost of the recently completed RCMP building in Prince George was around $700 per square foot, even after allowing for cost escalation since the building was completed. This compares to a figure closer to $1,000 per square foot for the North Cowichan building.

Willcocks also pointed out the North Cowichan building is similar to one recently approved for Fort St. John, designed by the same architect. He wonders if the municipality could have driven a better bargain for the architect’s fee, with a building of such similar design.

In addition, the group is strongly opposed to the municipality’s process of gaining approval for the proposed borrowing. The Alternative Approval Process requires residents to send a completed Elector Response Form to the municipality if in opposition to the project. Doing nothing automatically registers as a “Yes” vote.

Related: AAP moves ahead for new RCMP detachment building

The group regards the system as highly undemocratic since people are not only voting in favour if they don’t use the form, but those who do use the form lose the right to a secret vote.

Members of the group say they’ve heard from people who are genuinely afraid to send in their forms for fear of future reprisals.

North Cowichan distributed the Elector Response Form to households, but only provided one per home, instead of one per voter. Voters with ad block at the post office would not have received a form.

The group wants people to understand voters must obtain further copies of the form to ensure each voter is counted. Forms can be downloaded at https://www.northcowichan.ca/assets/LegalNotices/6. Elector Response Form (RCMP Building).pdf.

The group’s preferred resolution to the process would be to cancel or postpone the voting until a more equitable system is put into place. Failing that, the group would like to strongly encourage voters to get a copy of the form, complete it and send it in to the municipality.

Anyone interested in contacting the group for further information can email Willcocks at allenwillcocks@gmail.com.

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