Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Asking Questions.

Sometimes, simple is best.  And that's the easiest way to describe the outcome of our most recent Council debate on the upcoming plebiscite question on amalgamation with Duncan.

You'll recall that a few weeks ago, Council tentatively approved the following question:
"Are you in favour of spending approximately $50-thousand dollars (as North Cowichan's share) for a study on the costs and benefits of amalgamation between North Cowichan and the City of Duncan?"
The question was only "tentatively" approved, though.  We wanted to wait on our joint meeting with the City of Duncan Council before finalizing it.

That meeting - as you'll recall from last week's blog post - didn't go terribly well.

And based on a complete lack of interest on the part of Duncan's Council in the idea of separating out the notions of "amalgamation" and "boundary restructuring" into two separate questions, our Council unanimously defeated my postponed motion to ask a separate question on the re-alignment.  (And yes, as I promised last week, I did indeed "vote against my own motion.")  

But we also agreed to simplify the question that'll be on the ballot this fall.  It will now read:
Are you in favour of conducting a study to explore the costs and benefits of amalgamation of the municipalities of North Cowichan and City of Duncan?
I was of two minds on this.  Part of me wanted to include the dollar figure from the original question - just in the interest of clarity.  I tried to amend the motion to include that provision, but only Councillor Marsh supported me. 

And in the end, I'm not upset with the outcome.  Simple is indeed best.

Another question?

I also tried to suggest a topic for another possible referendum question.  This one has to do with the new recycling regime in North Cowichan.  As you've no doubt heard, we've turned over the recycling function to the new Provincially-created Multi-Materials BC consortium (MMBC).  It's a major saving for us - to the tune of about $350-thousand dollars per year - but there is huge public frustration over the fact that the new system no longer accepts things such as film plastics; grocery bags and such.

It's gotten to the point that I can barely leave my house without being accosted by angry citizens; people who are upset with the new system, and quite disappointed that they feel they have no choice now but to throw those plastic bags in the garbage.  The fact is, they do have a choice - the bags can be bagged up and brought to the Return-It Centre or the CVRD Waste Transfer Station, but most people I've talked to aren't really interested in doing that.   All they know is that a service they had come to count on - curbside pickup of this stuff - is no longer available.  And they're frustrated.

Council has already agreed to do a "review" of the MMBC contract next June, and I thought it might be interesting, as part of the background to that review, to ask voters a simple question.  Something to the effect of: 
"Would you be in favour of returning to the old recycling system, even if it meant an increase in your fees for this service?" 
(That recycling component dropped by about $15.00 per household this year as we passed along the aforementioned $350-thousand dollar saving.)

I didn't actually make a motion to ask the question; I just kind of threw the idea out there for discussion.  To say there was no appetite for this would be an understatement.  Everyone agreed that the answer wasn't to give folks the option of returning to the old system, but rather to do a better job of "educating" them on the new one which, incidentally, also includes some new plastics and other items that can be recycled. 

I'm still not convinced this is the right way to go, and I really would have liked to hear from the voters on it.  After all, there's an election coming up, and it wasn't as though "asking the question" would be a very expensive or time-consuming exercise.  But it's not going to happen.

Election time.

And speaking of the election, I have now made my decision.  I'm not gonna spend a lot of time on this issue on here - this blog is about Council issues, not politics.  Suffice it to say that I will be running again.  For full details on my campaign, you can check out my website at www.alsiebring.ca, or my campaign Facebook page, which is here.

I suspect there will be a few more blog posts here between now and November 15th, but I look forward to seeing you during the campaign.

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