In his own words: North Cowichan council candidate Al Siebring
Local broadcaster and writer Al Siebring will be seeking a second term on North Cowichan Council in the November civic election.
“When I ran for Council three years ago,” he says, “there were some things I had set as priorities in my campaign. I did get some of those things done, but others got side-tracked by more urgent matters that we had no way of foreseeing; the Catalyst tax revolt, the Halalt water situation, and the huge amount of time that was taken up to finalize our new Official Community Plan.”
Siebring says one of his priorities for the new term will be to initiate a discussion on a full amalgamation with the City of Duncan.
“The duplication of services that exists between the two municipalities has never made sense to me,” Siebring says. “And when you look at the reality, residential property tax rates in Duncan are 31% higher than they are in North Cowichan, while business tax rates are almost 40% higher. All of this while Duncan’s capacity to service its’ infrastructure is diminishing.
“In this day and age, a full-fledged ‘City’ with a population of only 5,000 people simply isn’t sustainable,” Siebring says. “For example, we are currently in talks about how to split out the costs for flood protection in the Beverly/Lakes area. The fairest way to parcel out the costs would be to base them on the assessed value of the property that’s being protected by the new dikes. Under that plan, Duncan should be paying almost 70% of whatever costs aren’t covered by senior levels of government. That’s the way the assessed value of the protected properties works out. But nobody seriously expects Duncan to be able to afford that kind of hit with their small tax base. So the unavoidable fact is that North Cowichan will be stuck with the lion’s share of the costs on this.
“The only way for North Cowichan to stop subsidizing this kind of thing is for the two municipalities to amalgamate, so there’s a level playing field for all taxpayers.”
Siebring says if he’s re-elected, he’ll introduce a motion within the first 90 days of the new Council term, suggesting North Cowichan approach the City of Duncan to initiate a joint study on the feasibility of amalgamation.
Siebring says he also wants to continue working on several other files that he initiated during his first term on Council. “I’ve taken a lead role in the past three years in working toward cost containment for special police investigations. The notion that we could get an unexpected 'bill' from the Province for a major crime investigation in our jurisdiction involving outside resources literally keeps me up some nights," he says. "North Cowichan is now seen as the leader on the Island - and one of the leaders in the entire Province - on finding a resolution to this problem. I’d like to be able to continue to push that issue forward with the Solicitor-General after the election.”
And, Siebring says, he'll continue to push to stream-line the development approval process. “I recognize - and so does the development community - that there are legitimate land-use rules, regulations, and guidelines that need to be followed,” he says. “But we have to find a way to balance out that reality with the fact that there is wide-spread cynicism among developers about the level of detail and minutiae which we are seeking to regulate. Dictating the exterior colour scheme of new buildings, or telling developers what species of vegetation they have to use in a landscape plan, just seems a bit over the top to me. We shouldn’t be regulating aesthetics.”