Opinion

EDITORIAL: Paternal politics

The increased involvement of Nanaimo's mayor and council in the affairs, and pocketbooks, of Parksville Qualicum Beach residents has a distasteful, paternalistic feel.

Recent decisions by the Regional District of Nanaimo's board of directors serve as evidence the elected officials of the mid-Island's largest community believe they know what's best for residents here.

The RDN board has a confusing, weighted system when it comes to voting. Nanaimo's mayor and councillors — there are seven of them on the unwieldy 17-member body — can, and do, vote in a block to ensure their city's interests are front and centre.

The most recent example of this paternalistic approach to the hinterland came in late July when the board — on the strength of the weighted votes of the Nanaimo members — voted to release $1 million in taxpayer funds to the Island Corridor Foundation. (Curiously and significantly, French Creek rep and board chair Joe Stanhope sided with the city folk.)

The representatives of places like Coombs, Bowser, Qualicum Beach and Parksville voted against the motion, and for good reason. There is no indication whatsoever that any train will ever travel any kilometre of track north of Nanaimo. The ICF has been dodging questions about schedules for more than a year.

Why would taxpayers here support something that will have little or no benefit to their way of life or commerce? But the mayor of Nanaimo, among others who don't live here, waxed poetic about a possibile opportunity being lost. One could almost picture the mayor patting us little people of the northern reaches on the head like children, telling us he knows best.

The opportunity presented by rail — and we're nowhere near certain a passenger train will actually operate on any portion of Island tracks again any time soon — are Nanaimo opportunities, period. Nanaimo has a handsome train station and possible rail operation support businesses that need to get busy.

The civic elections this November would be a good time to debate the relationship between the RDN and local governments here. Hmmm, would an amalgamated Parksville Qualicum Beach make sense in relation to this issue?

— Editorial by John Harding

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