Friday, June 21, 2013

Should there be a Province of Vancouver Island?

It has been 146 years since Vancouver Island was a government jurisdiction of its own and now two Vancouver Island people are looking to form the province of Vancouver Island.  Laurie Gourlay of Nanaimo and Scott Akenhead of Ladysmith have started two petitions to get provincehood for Vancouver Island.

I think idea has a lot of merit.   British Columbia as a it stands is no longer the best way to govern the area covered by our province.   We have four very distinct regions of BC that would make for reasonable provinces.

  • Vancouver Island - 770,000 people
  • Northern BC - 310,000  people
  • Southern Interior - 700,000 people
  • Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley - 2,620,000 people

The populations and areas are large enough to warrant a provincial government.  Vancouver Island the Southern Interior would have populations similar to New Brunswick.   Northern BC has a much larger population than PEI.  There is a strong enough economy to warrant all four of them as provinces.  

At the moment most of the people in BC live in the lower mainland which means we govern first and foremost for their needs and not the needs of other parts of BC.    Northern BC only has 10 MLAs and an economy that is entirely based on natural resources.   What it needs in governance is very different than what is needed in Vancouver.

Another reason to consider splitting BC into four new provinces is that rural areas of the province subsidize the urban areas.    Making northern BC and the southern interior separate provinces would mean more and better services in those areas for a lower cost.   It would also mean the lower mainland and Vancouver Island residents would have to shoulder a higher cost of their government services.

A new Vancouver Island province would mean the lost of a lot of jobs in Victoria.   A Vancouver Island province would need a much smaller civil service than we currently have.

The creation of four new provinces would also add more representation in Ottawa for BC.   Right now we have 6 senators and 36 MPs though this will be 42 MPs shortly.   With four provinces we should end up with 24 senators.   As to MPs, we should end up with 46 in total, not much of an increase, but still some.   The most important improvement would be for Northern BC going from three MPs to six MPs.

The idea is an important one to consider though I suspect the way confederation works it is not likely to happen.  The nature of the Canadian federation is that the status quo is fossilized  and virtually impossible to change.   The creation of just Vancouver Island as a new province would require the agreement of at least seven of the ten current provinces representing at least 50% of the population.   I can see all four Atlantic provinces and Quebec objecting to the creation of a new western province.
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