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

Just Posted

Ma Murrays 2021 virtual ceremony screenshot
North Island Gazette wins big at 2021 Ma Murray Newspaper Awards

Zoe Ducklow and Bill McQuarrie both won gold at the online ceremony

Port Hardy council has agreed to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of the discovery of the remains of 215 children being found on the grounds of a former residential school. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Council votes to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of mass grave sites being found

Coun. Treena Smith made the motion for the chamber to not host Canada Day celebrations this year

Port Hardy Fire Rescue responded to an early morning fire around 3:50 a.m. on Sunday, June 13. Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street. Anyone with information is asked to contact the RCMP at 250-949-6335. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue photo)
Firefighters respond to early morning fire near visitor centre in Port Hardy

Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk. Photo contributed
COMMENTARY: MLA Michele Babchuk talks the future of forestry

‘These forests are important to every single one of us, myself included’

Dr. Prean Armogam hands over a cheque for $10,000 to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society president Rosaline Glynn. The money will be going towards a new roof for the Port Hardy seniors centre. This is the second donation Dr. Armogam has made to the society, giving them $5,000 a little over a year ago. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Doctor donates $10k to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society for new roof

This was the second donation Armogam has given to the society

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Tulips bloom in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Thursday, May 10, 2018. Day two of a full week of scheduled hearings will be heard in Federal Court today on a case involving Indigenous children unnecessarily taken into foster care by what all parties call Canada’s “broken child welfare system.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AFN slams Ottawa for ‘heartless’ legal challenge of First Nations child compensation

2019 decision awarded $40,000 to each Indigenous child removed before 2006

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Island man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-week-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates that less than five per cent of mass-marketing fraud is ever reported.
Tips to avoid scams targeting Vancouver Island seniors

In most cases, fraudsters impersonate an individual, business or agency seniors recognize and trust

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Most Read