The white badge on the Vancouver Island flag includes the trident of Neptune and wand of Mercury to represent the sea and trade

The white badge on the Vancouver Island flag includes the trident of Neptune and wand of Mercury to represent the sea and trade

Vancouver Island Party lays out its declaration of independence from BC

Bridge to the mainland, free ferries, light rail part of newly launched political party vision for becoming Canada's 11th province

In 1866 the 17-year-old British colony of Vancouver Island officially ceased to exist thanks to a forced merger with the mainland colony of British Columbia.

In 1878, seven years after joining confederation, B.C. voted to leave Canada in frustration over failed federal promises tied to the Island.

The threat proved empty and the promises remain partially unfulfilled, but a century and a half later, a small group of Vancouver Islanders led by a Harvard-trained economist aims to right that wrong, and, in the process, make the Island Canada’s 11th province.

The Vancouver Island Party officially launches tomorrow with the goal of protecting and enhancing the Island’s economic, environmental, social and cultural identity by leaving B.C. and applying to join confederation as an independent entity.

Led by Robin Richardson, a former MP in Joe Clark’s Conservative government, the VIP intends to field candidates in all 14 Island ridings in the 2017 provincial election and push to get the region full provincial status by 2021.

“Population-wise we are larger than three provinces and all three territories,” Richardson said. “Being a province gives us a lot more control.”

According to the VIP leader, the primary issues facing Islanders are climate change, federal and provincial government indifference, and economic, environmental and social injustice. The solution, he said, is self-determination.

“We’ve been largely ignored by the both the federal and provincial governments,” he said. “We would be much better off. We’d be Island-first and proud of it.”

At the moment, the party has no connection to the deliberately non-partisan VIprovince initiative launched a few years ago by the Vancouver Island and Coastal Conservation Society.

VIprovince spokesperson Laurie Gourlay was unfamiliar with the VIP prior to being contacted by Black Press, but obviously intrigued with its mandate and the fact it hopes to build on the federal and provincial petitions he launched in 2013 requesting provincehood.

“I’m pleased to see it’s garnered that kind of interest and has this goal,” Gourlay said. “As we see it, Vancouver Island is coming of age and it’s a natural progression. It’s kind of exciting, but I am hesitant and have to be careful.”

Perhaps reflecting the Island itself, the VIP platform is an interesting mishmash of ideas pulled from different ends of the political spectrum.

“The Vancouver Island Party is centrist in nature,” Richardson said. “We are fiscally responsible, socially progressive and environmentally green. We welcome all VanIslers, irrespective of their former political affiliation.

“People from all walks of life should find an appeal in our philosophy.”

Given that the platform was drafted largely by a former economist for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation who also happens to be a Christian minister, it should be no surprise that balanced budgets, fiscal conservatism and family values play prominent roles. A flat tax is on the table. Tax relief for the middle class and competitive business taxes are promised.

But the vision statement also carries a broad green streak with a commitment to sustainability and social justice. Preferential hiring policies for Vancouver Island residents, buy and grow local incentives, increased investment in public transportation, renewable energy programs, guaranteed annual incomes, a shift from resource extraction to value-added manufacturing, marine and groundwater protection, and cheap or free post-secondary education directives are also in place.

Democratic reform also factors into the plan, including proportional representation, recall laws and a shifting of power from the capital to local and regional governments. Some of the touchier local issues like marine oil tankers and old growth logging could be addressed through planned direct citizens initiatives.

Right now, the party is small, basically consisting of Richardson and a handful a like-minded Islanders, none of whom has a prominent public profile. Their goal is to change that with a recruiting drive over the next few months. Members intend to actively approach local government. community and First Nations leaders and have a team in place by November.

Ideally, voters give the party a presence in the next legislature, which could convince the next government to put the issue on the ballot for 2021.

“We hope to be perceived as well-rounded and serious,” Richardson said. “We don’t want to be perceived as a fringe party.”

He plans to reach out to the VIprovince group in the near future to share ideas, piggyback on the existing petition initiative and see how they can work together.

Gourlay’s initiative had some small successes recently with a decision by the B.C. government to temporarily fly the Vancouver Island flag at the legislature a few weeks ago, and a letter earlier this year from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledging the Island’s heritage as a separate colony.

He said the reaction from Islanders has been mixed to separation: about one-third in favour, one-third opposed and one-third indifferent. Without making any political endorsement of the VIP, he welcomes the fact that it will get people talking.

“I support the idea being discussed. We’ve seen a vacuum as far as the idea being discussed,” he said. “We are looking at it as a means of opening up a dialogue,”

 

More on the VIP plan

What the province of Vancouver Island would want from Canada as the terms for it joining confederation is spelled out in the party’s statement of guiding principles:

A bridge connecting the Island to the mainland

12 MPs and 10 senators

free or reduced-rate ferries

payment of the Island’s share of the B.C. debt

seawall and dike infrastructure to protect against climate change

a commitment to maintaining the existing military bases

New light-rail systems for greater Victoria, the Nanaimo area, and the Comox Valley, plus reinvestment in the E&N, including an up-Island extension

A highway connecting the Alberni/Bamfield area to the south Island via Cowichan Lake

A Port Alberni shipping hub

— source vanisleparty.com

Follow me on Twitter @JohnMcKinleyBP

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bulldogs forward Brandon Buhr is knocked off the puck by Grizzlies defenceman Lindsay Reid. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs beaten back-to-back by Victoria Grizzlies

Victoria Grizzlies named Island Champions while Bulldogs take second place

In 1903, if you were looking north down First Avenue with Alberni in the distance, this is what you would have seen. Scattered houses along River Road are visible, as is the corner of Watson Block building in the lower lefthand corner of the photograph. This photo is part of the 24,000 online collection of the Alberni Valley Museum. View this one and more at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN02975 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: Historic street scenes of Port Alberni

Take a peek back in time with the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives

This photo shows Franklin River Camp "B" circa 1940. Logging was started in the Franklin River area by Bloedel, Stewart & Welch in 1934. This is one of 42 photos of the Franklin River area, donated together in an album put together by the donor's husband, Stanley Young. Young worked as a highrigger in the Franklin River area from 1939-46. This is one of 24,000 photos contained in the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives, available for public viewing at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN10830 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: Logging along Franklin River

Take a peek at Alberni Valley history with the Alberni Valley Museum

Getting enough Vitamin D can be challenging for Canadians, especially during winter months. (CONTRIBUTED)
ACTIVE LIVING: The ‘sunshine vitamin’ plays a vital role in our health

Port Alberni registered dietitian Sandra Gentleman writes about health issues

Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns gives a thumbs up to active transportation during a presentation of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce's Bike SEAT program at McLean Mill National Historic site in Port Alberni on April 16, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
QUINN’S QUIPS: MP Gord Johns takes victory ride for cycling strategy

Johns gained a reputation as the bicycle-riding MP during his first year

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike on Snowbirds plane during training in Comox

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

The Village on Third in Nanaimo won the Judges’ Choice award as top overall entry at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards. (Photo submitted)
Top developments north of the Malahat honoured by Vancouver Island Real Estate Board

Nanaimo’s Village on Third takes top honour at VIREB Commercial Building Awards

BCIT. (Wikimedia Commons)
BCIT apologizes after employee’s ‘offensive and hurtful’ email leaked to Métis Nation

BCIT says employee’s conduct has been investigated and addressed

An adult male yellow-breasted chat is shown in this undatd photograph on lands protected in collaboration between the En’owkin Centre and Penticton Indian Band with support through ECCC. The rescue from near extinction for a little yellow bird hinges on the wild rose in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a researcher says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, A. Michael Bezener/ En’owkin Centre 2020 *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Rare yellow birds need wild roses to survive in British Columbia: researcher

The importance of local wild roses emerged over a nearly 20-year experiment

RCMP officers search around rows of luggage carts as screens block off an area of the sidewalk after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Police say gang conflict in Metro Vancouver may be behind shooting death at airport

Police said this generation of gangsters is taking things to new level and have no regard for community safety

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read