Residents Invited to Join Citizens’ Assembly on Municipal Amalgamation

The City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan are conducting an Amalgamation Study. A Citizens’ Assembly will be created to review the issue and make a recommendation to both Councils. The Citizens’ Assembly will consist of 36 randomly selected individuals who are willing and able to give their time to participate and who live in Duncan or North Cowichan.

Packages have been mailed inviting randomly selected residents to participate.  If you receive an invitation package, we encourage all citizens who are able to volunteer to be on the Citizens’ Assembly and help shape the future of the two municipalities. To find out more, view the Frequently Asked Questions below or attend one of the public information sessions to be held on Thursday, February 2, 2017 and Friday, April 7, 2017, both between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. (locations to be determined):

What is a Citizens’ Assembly? 

A Citizens’ Assembly is a representative body of citizens tasked by a government to study, deliberate, and develop recommendations on a specific issue. Typically, members of a Citizens’ Assembly are randomly selected from among a pool of volunteers who pledge to work on behalf of all members of a community over a period of several weeks or months. The Assembly’s recommendations are generally developed by consensus and are intended to represent the best interests of the community.

Why have a Citizens’ Assembly in Duncan and North Cowichan?

The Citizens’ Assembly on Municipal Amalgamation is a deliberative process intended to provide local residents with an opportunity to actively participate in developing and evaluating the case for amalgamating the City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan. The Citizens’ Assembly will be an impartial advisory body charged with providing detailed recommendations representing a broad consensus concerning the proposed amalgamation. The Assembly will work to represent all residents and exemplify high standards of transparency, accountability, and robust civic participation.

The decision to amalgamate has far-reaching consequences, and both councils believe they will benefit from the perspective of area residents participating in an informed arm’s-length process.

What is the mandate of the Citizens’ Assembly?

The Citizens’ Assembly is tasked by the City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan to learn about the needs and interests of local residents, examine the implications of creating a new, amalgamated municipal government, and advise local councillors and their administrations on the conditions under which the municipalities should proceed. Specifically, the Citizens’ Assembly on Municipal Amalgamation will develop:

  • a set of values which describe their aspirations for good local governance;
  • a list of issues which they believe need to be satisfactorily resolved for municipal amalgamation to merit consideration; and
  • a detailed recommendation concerning municipal amalgamation, including any conditions which would need to be satisfied if a merger were to proceed.
What would be my role as a Citizens’ Assembly member?

Over six Saturdays beginning in January and ending in April 2017, you and your fellow Citizens’ Assembly members will work together to develop a public report that provides guidance to both councils concerning the prospect for amalgamating the two municipalities. To assist the members of the Assembly with their task, a thorough learning program will provide each member with the opportunity:

  • to examine the municipalities’ respective infrastructure, services, operations, and governance;
  • to inform and review the Amalgamation Study being undertaken concurrently with the Citizens’Assembly;
  • to learn from past municipal amalgamations; and
  • to consult with and learn from independent experts as well as local residents.
How do I become a member of the Citizens’ Assembly?

First, you must receive an invitation in the mail and respond to it no later than January 9, 2017. You can register over the phone, online at dnc-cama.ca, or by prepaid envelope found in this invitation.

On January 11, 2017, members of the Citizens’ Assembly will be randomly selected from among those who have registered as volunteers. If you are selected, you will receive a phone call notifying you.

How will members of the Citizens’ Assembly be chosen?

All residents the City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan are invited to volunteer to serve on the Citizens’ Assembly, if they get an invitation package. The deadline to volunteer is January 9, 2017. On January 11, the 36 members of the Citizens’ Assembly will be selected by random draw from the pool of registered volunteers. We will ensure that this random draw selects:

  • 18 men and 18 women;
  • 12 members from Duncan, and 24 members from North Cowichan, representing its four distinct communities and its rural areas;
  • a proportionate number of members from each of four age groups; and
  • two members who self-identify as Indigenous.
Why are the members of the Assembly randomly selected?

In 2003, British Columbia created the first Citizens’ Assembly in Canada to examine the issue of electoral reform. Its 161 members were randomly selected to participate from among more than 1,400 volunteers. Today, similar selection processes are routinely used to ensure that the membership of an Assembly broadly reflects the diversity of thought and experience within a community.

Who is eligible for the Citizens’ Assembly?

To be a member of the Citizens’ Assembly, you must be age 18 or over. You must be a resident of either Duncan or North Cowichan and be able to attend all six of the Assembly meetings. The working language of the Assembly is English and we regret that translation services will not be provided.

Although all residents of a household may volunteer, no more than one member of any household will be selected to serve on the Assembly. You do not need to be a Canadian citizen to participate. Municipal, provincial, and federal elected officials as well as individuals employed by either municipality are not eligible to participate.

I am not very familiar with this issue — can I still be involved?

Absolutely. We do not expect you to have any specialized knowledge about municipal governance. Your perspective and experience as a resident of Duncan or North Cowichan is what matters most. Facilitators and experts will be on hand to answer any questions you may have throughout the sessions.

Will I get paid to serve on the Assembly?

No. Members of the Assembly serve on a voluntary basis. Lunches and snacks will be provided, and basic travel costs, including parking, transit, and taxis, will be reimbursed. Childcare and eldercare costs will also be covered as required. There is no cost to participate.

If I do not get chosen for the Citizens’ Assembly, can I still be involved?

Yes. If you are not randomly selected as a member of the Assembly, we hope you will attend one of two public meetings taking place on Thursday, February 2, 2017 and Friday, April 7, 2017, both between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Who is running the Citizens’ Assembly?

In order to ensure the impartiality of the process, the municipalities have hired a consultant with significant expertise in the design and execution of deliberative processes.

Following a competitive tender, the contract was awarded to MASS LBP. MASS staff members will design and lead each session and report to the Chief Administrative Officer of each municipality as well as a special committee of both councils.