The total cost of the two referendums on affordable housing and drinking water that were held in the Cowichan Valley last year is $210,281.
The Cowichan Valley Regional District held the referendums at the same time as the municipal elections in October.
The referendum on affordable housing, which will see regional programs and services provided that are related to affordable housing and homelessness prevention, was passed by 11,981 votes to 9,799.
The other referendum on drinking water, which will support regional programs related to drinking water and watershed protection, passed by 12,890 votes to 6,667.
A report by Brian Carruthers, CAO of the CVRD, states that $108,307 was spent on the affordable housing referendum, and $101,974 was spent on the referendum on water protection.
The CVRD decided to hold the referendums at the same time as the municipal elections as a cost-saving measure, among other reasons.
The report also lists some of the challenges and lessons learned from the referendum process.
Almost half the costs, $50,056, of each referendum was spent on payments to election officials, advertising, building rentals, supplies and payments to member municipalities for conducting the referendums on behalf of the CVRD.
In addition, the costs of the public education and engagement campaigns totalled $41,393 of the affordable housing referendum, and $51,918 of the water protection referendum. A further $16,858 was spent on the affordable housing referendum on staff time for service establishment.
Carruthers pointed out that the limited moderation of PlaceSpeak forums in the early stages of the referendum campaigns allowed a high degree of misinformation to be circulated without clarification or correction.
He said this created perceptions and misinformation that continued throughout the process, as well as the fact that public meetings early in the process were not facilitated, resulting in personal attacks and disrespectful discourse. “A number of stakeholder groups were missed at beginning of process and should have been included in the engagement process earlier,” Carruthers said.
“As well, a broader range of learning styles could have been employed to allow more robust input. Direct mail-out was also sent too early, and should have been done closer to the time of the referendum as awareness of the referendum process increased.”