How do you help citizens make an informed decision about a divisive issue?


CLIENTCity of Duncan + the Municipality of North Cowichan

PROJECTAmalgamation Referendum Information Campaign


The City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan have been considering amalgamation since they first separated in 1912. The most recent discussion occurred in 2014 when the two municipalities held a non-binding opinion poll to ask residents if they were in favour of pursuing an amalgamation study. With the majority of residents voting ‘yes’, the municipalities formed the Citizens’ Assembly on Municipal Amalgamation and also commissioned a Technical Study. As a result, the Citizens’ Assembly recommended that the two municipalities endorse amalgamation and pursue a referendum on the issue.

In the spring of 2018 the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing called the referendum for June 23, 2018.


We were hired by the municipalities to develop and execute a public education campaign leading up to the referendum. Our role was to provide residents with the facts they needed to make an informed decision and to encourage all residents to vote on referendum day.

A comprehensive communications plan was created to guide the campaign, which included a dedicated website, media relations, a 24/7 call-in service, direct mailers, email campaigns and social media platform development. An entire brand identity was developed for the campaign, which also included a tagline, infographics, and the creation of all advertising materials, including print, radio and billboard ads.

Two weeks before the referendum, four open houses were held in communities around the two municipalities. These sessions allowed residents to review the facts of amalgamation and to ask questions about the process and possible impacts.

The campaign ran from May 7th, until the referendum vote date on June 23rd, 2018.



Communications plan

Government relations strategy

Market research

Media relations plan

Campaign platform + style guide

Daily headline curation

Community engagement

Media training

Infographic + animation design

Marketing materials + print brochure

News conference


Traditional + digital advertising

Video production

Social media strategy + implementation


Success was gauged by ensuring residents received the information they needed to make a decision on amalgamation regardless of the outcome of the vote.

The dedicated website received 28,978 views during the campaign, with 80% of those who filled out the online survey reporting the information to be helpful. Approximately 340 residents attended the community information sessions, with 82% of those who completed an exit survey saying they found the information provided answered their questions.

The final referendum resulted in 68% voting against amalgamation in Duncan, while 59% voted in favour in North Cowichan. In order for the amalgamation to occur, both municipalities would have had to vote over 50% in favour of amalgamation. It was reported that more advanced voting opportunities were used in the amalgamation referendum than in any of the previous three elections.

Pieces of Coverage
Online Readership ( Millions )
Estimated Coverage Views ( Thousands )
Social Shares