The Regional District of Nanaimo’s initiative to create a region-wide economic development service is not going to happen anytime soon.
That’s because majority of the Regional District of Nanaimo directors are not keen on it.
They felt that any economic initiatives and plans should be left to individual electoral areas and cities to work on its own.
RDN staff has recommended to the Committee of the Whole that the regional district work with the City of Nanaimo, the Gabrioloa Island Chamber of Commerce, the District of Lantzville, and Oceanside Initiatives to identify opportunities for collaboration in providing a regional economic development service.
Parksville director and mayor Ed Mayne, Electoral Area E (Nanoose Bay) director Bob Rogers, Electoral Area F (Coombs, Hilliers, Errington, Whiskey Creek, Meadowood) Leanne Salter spoke against it.
Mayne said that the City of Parksville has no interest in doing this.
He said if the City of Nanaimo wants to collaborate with other electoral areas they can go ahead with it as it has the biggest land area in the regional district, employs more people and has the largest tax base.
“They need their own economic development,” said Mayne. “You don’t need Parksville to be contributing to it or Qualicum Beach. Nanaimo should be doing it on their own. And that’s where it should be coming from.”
Mayne went on to say that if he asked Parksville council to vote on it, he believes the result would be unanimously be negative.
“The City of Parksville does not have an interest in collaborating on a regional basis for an economic development,” said Mayne.
“We think we should be doing this ourselves.”
Geoff Garbutt, RDN general manager, strategic and community development, planning and development, explained to the board the plan is simly an exploratory discussion to determine if it is feasible to establish a regional economic development.
RDN chairman Ian Thorpe supports the idea. He believes the future of the regionl depends on economic development.
“I don’t believe we can put it all on the back of the City of Nanaimo,” said Thorpe.
“They rightly should have a strong economic development department which I hope they will be developing shortly. But Nanaimo doesn’t speak for the rest of the region as we often hear around this table.”
Athough Thorpe agrees that every area has its own responsibility to deal with their own interests, he asked, “should we not be looking at opportunities, establishing areas where there might possibly be an occasion to collaborate and help each other?”
“Can we not find a way to help each other, avoid stepping on each other’s toes, duplicating some services and in fact increasing economic opportunities for the entire region?” asked Thorpe.
RDN staff recommendation was eventually defeated with opposition coming from Mayne, Rogers, Salter, director for Electoral Area G (French Creek, San Pareil, Little Qualicum, Englishman River, Lehann Wallace, Parksville director Adam Fras, Town of Qualicum Beach director Brian Wiese, director for Electoral Area H (Bowser, Qualicum Bay, Deep Bay) Stuart McLean, director for Electoral Area A (Cedar, South Wellington, Yellowpoint, Cassidy) Keith Wilson, director for Electoral Area C (Extension, Nanaimo Lakes, East Wellington, Pleasant Valley) Maureen Young, and City of Nanaimo directors Sheryl Armstrong, Tyler Brown and Erin Hemmens.
Also discussed was the motion to eliminate the Northern Communities Economic Development program in the Oceanside services area.
Staff indicated that its consultant had noted that most of the grants are community based and suggested to consolidate the NCED into the currenty community grant program provided by the RDN. The consolidation may occur in the 2021 budget year.
The motion, however, is now being referred to the Oceanside Services Committee for discussions.
City of Nanaimo’s Don Bonner supported the referral as he believes the regional district should grant more ability for the other organization and committees to have a little bit morepower in the RDN and a say in what goes on in their areas.