The selection of the Alternative Approval Process as a means of seeking electoral support for a new North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP building is generating a significant backlash from the public.
People don’t like the negative-billing aspect of the procedure. It almost seems like a backhanded approach of pushing a project through when a certain percentage of the public is required to respond to oppose it.
In this case, the advance notice through mail-outs and newspaper ads is capturing plenty of attention. We fully expect the 10 per cent threshold needed from the electorate to oppose the borrowing of $48 million to finance the construction costs of the new facility will be reached.
Assuming that happens, this is where the system doesn’t make sense. The Municipality of North Cowichan can then call a referendum to seek approval.
Going straight to a referendum would have saved a potential unnecessary step. The thought was the cost of a referendum could have been saved by trying the back door route.
Even if the AAP and an ensuing referendum are both defeated, the RCMP could still go ahead with construction of the building and bill the Municipality its portion.
It should be said the Municipality may be pledging to borrow the funds, but 60 per cent will be repaid by the RCMP.
No one can deny the current RCMP headquarters are badly antiquated and need to be replaced. But, at the same time, the purpose of making a new building a hub detachment with more departments under one roof is debatable.
And then there’s the question of new elaborate building versus existing renovated site. There are seemingly many current buildings that could be utilized to suit the requirements of the RCMP at a much lower cost.
That subject has been brought up before and the consensus has always been transitioning another building is more expensive and couldn’t be renovated to suit RCMP needs. That hardly seems possible.
With office buildings becoming a thing of the past and vacancies in major centres skyrocketing since the COVID-19 pandemic, it doesn’t seem right to go to the extreme for an RCMP office in North Cowichan when working remotely is becoming the norm.