Why a nascent Vancouver Island separatist movement matters

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      With Vancouver Island having only two of 14 MLAs on the government side of the legislature, some residents are talking about creating a new province.

      The VI province initiative was announced in a news release in June by mid-Island environmental-sustainability advocates Laurie Gourlay and Scott Akenhead.

      They point out that there are 765,000 residents on Vancouver Island, which is more than the number living in six Canadian provinces and territories. B.C.'s population is approximately 4.65 million.

      "Most recently overarching regional, national and global issues have come to the forefront—including needs to meet Island self-sufficiency, food security, energy and economic self-reliance, as well as resource, watershed and ecological health," the VI province initiative website states. "Administration and management of Vancouver Island in its own right, as a province, offers a means to ensure that Island residents retain a high quality and standard of living, with the authority to make this happen." 

      A petition has been drafted for submission to Parliament, calling upon the federal government to proclaim Vancouver Island a province by May 16, 2021. This will be the 150th anniversary of B.C. entering into Confederation.

      A similar petition has been prepared for members of the provincial legislature.

      Central government power is diminishing

      The idea might strike some as crazy, but it comes in an era when more nation states are finding themselves in serious trouble.

      Dmitry Orlov's recent book, The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors' Toolkit, noted that there was more than a doubling of countries that lacked "effective sovereignty" on the World Bank's list between 1996 and 2006.

      If Vancouver Island were to become a separate province, it might necessitate the creation of a new court system, a new environmental-assessment regime, and a new securities commission, to name just three areas of provincial jurisdiction.

      Separation from the rest of B.C. isn't something to be considered lightly.

      Vancouver Island and the environment

      But based on recent voting patterns, it's clear that Vancouver Islanders have a keener interest in sustainability.

      That's been demonstrated by the popularity of the Green party, which elected its first MLA, Andrew Weaver, in Oak Bay–Gordon Head.

      Don't be surprised if Green party supporters get behind this initiative to turn Vancouver Island into a separate province. That's because it could conceivably lead to Weaver or another Green MLA becoming a premier.

      Meanwhile, a Vancouver Island separatist movement could also also push the B.C. Liberal government to adopt more environmentally responsible policies.

      In the same way, the Quebec separatist movement has forced Ottawa to make concessions around financial issues. Ottawa is also leery about seizing authority over areas that members of the Quebec national assembly consider provincial jurisdiction.

      B.C. Liberals champion fossil fuels

      At the moment, B.C. premier Christy Clark is linking the province's economic future to the export of liquefied natural gas—a policy that Weaver has condemned.

      This comes at a time when fossil-fuel use is contributing to Frankenstorms, sudden floods, and massive forest fires around the globe. No longer can human beings count on stable, predictable weather patterns.

      At the moment, it seems far-fetched that the island will separate from B.C., notwithstanding continued frustration over ferry service and the lack of representation in cabinet.

      But the mood could change should Vancouver Island be subjected to the type of climate destabilization that's occurred elsewhere.

      This will be especially so if it appears that the people at the top of the B.C. Liberal government don't want to acknowledge that there's a problem with greenhouse-gas emissions, not to mention their reliance on LNG exports as an economic panacea.



      Unk Harry

      Aug 6, 2013 at 8:48am

      Let's explore this!! We already have hydro dams, renewable forest products, agriculture, adequate clean water, some fossil fuel reserves and a decent population base. As far as the ferries, we can afford them IF we have to stop paying for the other boondoggle mega-projects on the Mainland. I suggest a two-tier ferry rate--free to leave the Island, a thousand bucks to come over from Canada.

      Alan Layton

      Aug 6, 2013 at 8:56am

      Perhaps each distinct political region can become a province?

      If VI does become a province, then BC can finally unload a big chunk of BC Ferries and save a ton of money, not to mention saving on travel expenses for the MLA's who have to fly and sail over there. It was dumb idea having the capital on an island, with no bridge, to begin with.

      Of course Victoria would have to find a way to make money since it does rely heavily on provincial government jobs. I have no idea what they'll do with the Legislative Building since the MLA count would shrink so much that their government could probably just meet in a Tim Horton's. Maybe it can be converted in to a mall for the cruise ships that dock nearby.

      Stephen Rees

      Aug 6, 2013 at 9:35am

      BC Ferries would then come under federal jurisdiction. Almost certainly the subsidy which flows from the major routes (Vancouver - Vancouver Island) to the minor routes (everything else) would cease.

      New Westminster would expect to return to its former role of provincial capital.

      Haida Gwai would then also secede


      Aug 6, 2013 at 9:54am

      It's an extreme step that probably won't be allowed to happen by either Provincial or Federal Governments.

      But if it does happen make it a Republic and save $$ on the "Royal" Bullshit.


      Aug 6, 2013 at 10:27am

      I think the plan ignores a lot of the history as to why the provincial capital was placed on the island. Never mind the gross expense that would come from separation.


      Aug 6, 2013 at 10:32am

      It's a worthwhile thought experiment.

      I have a feeling - unbacked by any research - that human communities have a maximum political size, that after say 250K, a community loses its neighbourly sentiments. Then we have the us vs them crap that interferes with (I shall not say eliminates, being an optimist) civil and rational cooperation.

      Balkanization is both good and bad. The good is that the individual can feel represented and heard and that the loudests of the regional (e.g. ethnic) resentmers are mollified at last.

      The bad is that the economies of scale (i.e. negotiating power) go out the window, not to mention the hard-won treaties, laws, protections, rules, pensions and stuff that were established under the previous regime.

      Splitting the difference: smaller, less intrusive (but less useful) central government + increasingly autonomous regions.


      Aug 6, 2013 at 10:41am

      Economics will be the tell tail here. If I were to guess, I bet that Vancouver Island is a net taker from the province at the momemt. If that's the case, any analysis of an independant province would show that the citizens would be worse off.

      Ted Walton

      Aug 6, 2013 at 11:21am

      NO! Separatist movements do nothing to strengthen a political community. If VI became its own province we would have to shoulder many new financial burdens that we don't pay now. What a foolish idea!

      Alan Layton

      Aug 6, 2013 at 12:28pm

      If VI did separate, they would probably make Nanaimo the capital since it's mid-Island and increasingly it's the upper half the island showing a lot of economic growth. If Victoria refuses then the upper island could separate and become another province.


      Aug 6, 2013 at 1:20pm

      Please separate-V.I. still has some forests and enough agricultural land to feed itself.
      V.I can be a green, progressive refuge.

      Just discontinue the ferry service after all the BC Libs including the Premier have left-no one else will be coming back.....