Voting in the Cowichan region? Here’s what you need to know

Four municipalities, nine electoral areas, two school boards and a referendum. Here’s what you need to know before heading to the polls in the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
"Voting Place" sign taped to a utility pole
B.C. residents will vote in Local General elections on Oct. 15, 2022. Photo by Jacqueline Ronson/The Discourse

This Saturday, Oct. 15, voters in British Columbia will choose new elected representatives for municipal governments, regional district boards and school district boards.

The outcome will decide local leadership in our communities for the next four years. 

In the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) — from the Malahat to Ladysmith, and west past Cowichan Lake — voters will choose local government representatives and school district trustees, and they will have their say on a region-wide referendum question related to how major recreation facilities are funded. 

This guide includes the basics on how to vote, what to expect and where to find the information you need to make an informed choice. 

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Am I eligible to vote in the Cowichan region?

To vote, you must be:

  • 18 years of age or older on voting day, October 15, 2022
  • A Canadian citizen
  • A resident of the Cowichan region for at least six months prior to voting day
  • Not disqualified from voting

Residents of the 34 First Nations reservations located within the CVRD are eligible to vote, if they meet the above requirements. People who live on reserve can vote for the relevant CVRD area director, the relevant school board candidates as well as the referendum.

People who own property in the Cowichan Valley region, but don’t normally live here, may also be eligible to vote. To be eligible, they must also have been a resident of B.C. for at least six months and hold Canadian citizenship. Non-resident voters must register at the time of voting and at the voting place local to the property they own. They must provide proof of ownership, in addition to regular voting identification. If they co-own the property, they must also show written consent from a majority of the property owners. Only one non-resident property owner can vote per parcel. 

What jurisdiction do I live in? 

Every property in the CVRD falls within one of 13 electoral jurisdictions. It’s important to know which jurisdiction you live (or own property) in, since that will determine which slate of candidates you’ll choose from. Your postal address doesn’t necessarily correspond to your jurisdiction. For example, many people who use “Duncan” as part of their mailing address actually fall in another jurisdiction, such as North Cowichan or one of the CVRD electoral areas. 

The Cowichan region includes four municipalities: North Cowichan, Duncan, Lake Cowichan and Ladysmith. 

These maps show the municipal boundaries:

Outside of the municipalities, all properties fall within one of nine CVRD electoral areas: Area A through Area I. This map shows the boundaries of the areas. For more detail, use the CVRD Web Map

First Nations reservations are also assigned to the nine CVRD areas. This website offers detailed information on which electoral areas the reserves correspond to. 

How to vote

Polls will be open on Oct. 15 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at various voting locations across the region. You have to go to a voting place in the jurisdiction you are eligible to vote in. This document lists the voting places for the nine CVRD areas and the four municipalities. 

You don’t need to show identification if you are already on the list of registered voters. If you’re not on the list, you can register on voting day by offering two pieces of identification that prove who you are and where you live. If you don’t have proof of your home address, you can instead make a solemn declaration. 

If you need help voting, you can request assistance. If you can get to a voting place but have difficulty accessing the building or room, you can ask an election official to bring you a ballot. You can also ask an election official or another person to help you mark your ballot. You can bring a translator with you to the polling place, if you need help with translation. 

Electoral officials at the voting places will be able to offer assistance and answer questions on voting day. It is their job to make voting as accessible as possible. 

Related story: Why local government and school board elections matter

What am I voting for?

The local general elections ask residents to pick who will represent them in municipal and regional district governments. Effective local governance requires representatives who  “demonstrate integrity, accountability, respect, leadership and collaboration with other elected officials and local government staff,” according to the B.C. government. 

Residents of the Municipality of North Cowichan will choose one mayor and six councillors. This website lists the candidates, and includes links to their websites and social media accounts. 

In the City of Duncan, incumbent Mayor Michelle Staples is running unopposed. Nine candidates are running to fill the six council seats. You can find the candidate names and information here. 

In the Town of Lake Cowichan, longtime councillor Tim McGonigle and incumbent Mayor Bob Day will vie for the mayor’s seat, and five candidates seek the four councillor positions. Find candidate information here. 

Incumbent Aaron Stone is running unopposed for mayor of the Town of Ladysmith. There are 11 candidates running for the six council seats. Find their names and information here. 

Residents of the Cowichan Valley Regional District will elect nine area directors, each representing one of the electoral areas. 

Incumbent Ian Morrison is running unopposed for Area F (Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls) and incumbent Ben Maartman is running unopposed for Area H (North Oyster/Diamond). Residents of those two areas will not vote for a CVRD area director, but may still vote for school district trustees and on the referendum question.

In each of the other seven CVRD areas, residents will choose between the two, three or four candidates seeking to represent them. Find candidate information here. 

Residents of Thetis Island, which is within CVRD Area G, will additionally vote for two representatives to sit on the Islands Trust council. Islands Trust is a governance body that seeks to represent the unique interests of Gulf Islands residents. Find candidate information here. 

Related story: The Discourse crash course: Municipal politics 101

What about school board elections?

Most residents of the CVRD fall within the boundaries of the Cowichan Valley School District, and will have the opportunity to vote for its trustees on their local election ballots. Eighteen candidates are seeking election to the seven trustee positions in that district. Find candidate information here. The Discourse sent candidates a survey on how they would act to protect students’ rights. Find their responses here.

Residents of the most northern parts of the CVRD, including the Town of Ladysmith and the Yellow Point area, fall within the Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools district. Twelve candidates seek the nine trustee positions for that school board. Find their information here. And here are their responses to The Discourse survey on students’ rights.

What about the referendum? 

The CVRD referendum question on recreation funding will appear on all local election ballots, including those for the four municipalities and nine electoral areas. It’s about a proposal to fund major recreation facilities in the region more equitably, based on who uses them. If the referendum passes, it will mean higher property taxes in some jurisdictions and lower taxes in others. Check out this article by The Discourse for detailed information on the proposal and its potential implications.

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