It’s past time to take a serious look at the district municipality idea, according to Alberni First candidates and organizers.
“You look at taxation in the city, you have to question why are we contributing so much to the regional district when your own taxes are so high?” asked co-chair Darren DeLuca. “Maybe there’s good reason, maybe it’s shared services, maybe it’s garbage dumps. I don’t know the answer to that but I think we have to ask the question.”
The candidates stressed that putting the district municipality on the platform indicated a promise to engage the public and experts on the issue and not commitment to pushing the idea through regardless.
“One thing that has to happen before [the district municipality] does is that everyone has to vote, including the city,” Jack McLeman said, adding that “people in the city may not want to accept any responsibility for the people outside the city.”
“The discussion could and should be open.”
Ron Paulson sees the district muncipality as a possible way to streamline local government structures.
“We have two bureaucracies in the Valley, they’re only about 100 feet apart and even if the regional municipality never ever came to pass I think it’s worthwhile having a look at the bureaucracies and seeing if there’s some efficiencies that could be explored. From the outside looking in I suspect there might be some duplication of services.”
While Sharie Minions believes that the city will benefit if the district municipality comes to fruition, she believes more research and discussion needs to happen to determine if it will benefit the regional district as well.
“I think there are a lot of benefits to it and if the numbers worked out and the regional district wanted it, it could be hugely beneficial to the Alberni Valley as a whole. After all, we’re all really one community,” Minions said, adding that “the extra tax dollars the city would receive could go towards beautifying teh community to encourage more residents or creating walking paths and trails.”
James Edwards cautioned that while he’s not for or against the idea of a district municipality, people may find that “the mechanics are more difficult than we’re anticipating.”
But regardless, Edwards believes that now is the time to either “continue the conversation or simply put it to bed.”
Port Alberni mayoral candidate Hira Chopra, who is not part of Alberni First, also advocates for a district municipality. Chopra has been a councillor for 18 years and also served for five years as chair of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD). He said in his platform that he will “work with Valley leadership to draw a regional municipality plan” and encourage businesses to move to the Alberni Valley.