Veteran North Cowichan councillor Al Siebring wasn’t comfortable sitting on the fence on the contentious amalgamation issue.
When asked for his position prior to the Citizen’s in-depth feature on the proposed marriage of the City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan, Siebring joined the major of councillors in stating he was undecided.
That all changed earlier this week.
“Practically everywhere I go, people want to talk about this,” the three-term councillor wrote on his blog.
“Common sense tells me that it’s time to undo a mistake that was made in 1912 and reunite these two municipalities.
“I’ll be voting yes on June 23.”
Siebring noted that there has been a lot of discussion about amalgamation on social media and in the Citizen and many of the comments have been “visceral, ill-informed and passionate.”
“As I read the opinions on this — both for and against — I don’t find most of the arguments to be terribly compelling.”
Siebring says claims that policing costs will “go through the roof” are missing the point that increased costs for policing are inevitable since Duncan’s population is poised to top the critical 5,000 mark and the city will be forced to pay for policing regardless.
“The only difference amalgamation would make is that those extra costs of over $1 million a year would be spread among about 20,000 households rather than the few thousand households in Duncan itself.
“And the province has promised to help with the transition if the vote is ‘yes’ by offsetting about $8 million in policing costs over the first five years of the life of a newly amalgamated municipality,” Siebring says.
A Chemainus resident, Siebring’s connection to the amalgamation idea goes back a decade.
“I campaigned on this issue in 2008 and I managed to get myself elected, which means there must have been a number of people who agreed with me.”
Early in his first term, Siebring brought the subject up but he failed to convince the rest of council it was a good idea.
“So my campaign promise pledge died on the vine.”
However, voters were asked in the 2014 election if they were in favour of investing in a study on amalgamation. By a narrow margin, voters said it would be a good idea, leading to the creation of a Citizens’ Assembly and the amalgamation vote on June 23.