Julian Fell believes the Errington-Coombs area has what it takes to become a municipality, and the Regional District of Nanaimo director for the area wants to find out.
At Tuesday night’s regular board meeting, Fell issued a notice of motion for the Aug. 27 meeting that calls for the board to support an Arrowsmith community restructure study looking into the feasibility of self-governance.
In an interview, Fell said he wants to re-establish a process that was begun over a decade ago.
“We started a study in 1994 when the population was less than half of what it is now and even then it was deemed feasible,” Fell said. “The second stage was to go to a financial analysis, but that’s when it was blocked by Victoria.”
Fell said the province halted the process at that time because they wanted the RDN to complete its regional growth strategy first.
Now, Fell said, he believes the time is right to look into the matter again, noting that the area is one of the most populous rural areas in the province.
“I’m trying to bring democracy to the area,” he said. “As it stands, because of the Byzantine voting system in regional districts, the cities get to vote on issues in rural areas but rural areas have no say in what goes on in cities and towns. Nanaimo outvotes me two to one in what happens in my own community. We tend to be treated like we don’t exist, like two-year-olds.”
Becoming a municipality, he continued, would mean the people making the decisions about Coombs and Errington would be accountable to the voters of the area, which he said is not the case now.
“If you do something that upsets them, you’ll hear about it come election time,” he said. “It would mean the decisions about what you did with your property would be decided by a local council and not by staff and directors from Nanaimo. If Nanaimo or staff make a proposal, the city councillors don’t care what the local opinion here is. There’s no accountability that way.”
Fell said there is substantial support for at least looking into the issue.
“People don’t like having the rules by which they live generated by people who live 50 or 60 kilometres away,” he said. “In 1994 we had three public hearings and we didn’t have people standing up and saying they don’t want that. People said, ‘show us the numbers.'”
If Fell’s motion is passed by the board, there remain significant hurdles prior to incorporation.
“We can’t re-use the study we did before, and I believe these studies run two to three years,” Fell said. “We would have to do the feasibility study again and that would depend on provincial funding and we are told it’s unlikely to be found. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained.”