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

More Peninsula councillors declare their 2018 intentions

Carl Jensen and Chris Graham, both of Central Saanich, have said they will run again.

Woodwynn Farms to be shut down and sold

The rehabilitation program at Woodwynn Farms is being shut down. According to… Continue reading

Victoria housing provider launches crisis prevention program to combat homelessness

Pacifica Housing aims to address challenges before tenants risk evictions

Victoria airport nearing billion-dollar mark in economic impact

Airport has nearly doubled its passengers and its impact on the economy since 2005

Victoria airport reaches nearly two million passengers in 2017

This year expected to see additional growth

Sidney’s Salish Sea aquarium to close for maintenance

First extended closure for the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea since it opened in 2009

Butchart Gardens is hiring now and paying more

Wages start at $15, job fair Feb. 20

B.C. woman who forged husband’s will gets house arrest

Princeton Judge says Odelle Simmons did not benefit from her crime

Cash still needed for Stelly’s Cross Path

MLA Olsen wants more specifics first

Parkland offers IB program this fall

Beginning Sept. 2018, Parkland Secondary School is slated to be the first… Continue reading

Injured parachutist wants stolen backpack back

Bag contained important video files of 2017 parachuting incident

Women’s movement has come a long way since march on Washington: Activists

Vancouver one of several cities hosting event on anniversary of historic Women’s March on Washington

Liberals’ 2-year infrastructure plan set to take 5: documents

Government says 793 projects totalling $1.8 billion in federal funds have been granted extensions

Workers shouldn’t be used as ‘pawns’ in minimum wage fight: Wynne

Comments from Kathleen Wynne after demonstrators rallied outside Tim Hortons locations across Canada

Most Read