The Municipality of North Cowichan has decided to borrow up to $48 million for a new police station. Many voters are not aware of the decision and others have questions. Have the decisions regarding location and building cost been wise? Are we getting a Cadillac when a Honda Civic would do? Is North Cowichan the right place for a regional station?
The money will be borrowed unless 10 per cent of the voters oppose the expenditure without a referendum. Voter opposition must be received by MNC by July 14. The process, termed Alternative Approval Process (AAP), is negative billing: you get the bill unless you object.
Have the voters been adequately informed of the AAP process and how difficult is it to call for a referendum? The local press has carried an article and the required legal notice has been published (a page of boiler plate wording). There has been the promise of a mailing to all electors containing information and a response form, by which an objection can be registered. More information is available on line.
Sounds good on paper but in reality the process is flawed. In our community, there is a large group that get its information by mail, not on the internet. The promised mailing was not letter mail, but sent as “Ad Mail”, same as a flier. Here we have a $48 million dollar issue but the municipality did not pay for letter mail, it paid the cheaper ad mail rate. If you have a block on delivery of “junk mail” you don’t get the info package and response form. Thus about 10 per cent of the households never got the package.
There is no provision on the response form for more than one voter to sign. So if the package did arrive and there is more than one voter in the house, copies of the response form must be made. How many of us have a scanner/copier at home?
Conclusion: A 10 per cent response is required to call for a referendum and about 10 per cent of the households (containing 15 per cent of the voters?) did not get the required response form in the mail. A flawed process and a flawed execution. What can the municipality do to correct the situation?