EDITORIAL: Rural divide

RDN director says rural residents are treated as minor children by those who represent larger muncipalities

The issues have changed but the debate has continued for more than 100 years as people in this country left the farms and congregated in the cities.

Not everyone left the countryside, thank goodness. And most, if not all of them have access to the same information — newspapers, Internet, etc. — that those in the big cities enjoy.

Julian Fell is one of those people who doesn’t live in a big city. He lives in Coombs/Errington and represents that area on the board of directors of the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN).

Fell has never been shy about expressing his opinion and for that we are thankful.

Recently, we were cc’d in an e-mail exchange involving Fell and another of these non-city dwellers from this region. Fell was using his official RDN e-mail account to send the comments, so we don’t feel too much like we’ve opened someone else’s mail to share with everyone.

“The biggest flaw in the regional district system used in B.C. (which is actually otherwise one of the best regional governance systems in North America), is the lack of democracy for rural residents,” Fell wrote.

“This topic comes up for discussion routinely at Electoral Area discussion groups at UBCM, et al. With 76 per cent of the population (and MLAs) living in municipalities, the rural areas are treated as minor children by the municipalities who consider themselves to be the rightful, informed and benign rulers of the rural folks.”

Rural residents experience a lack of democracy and are treated as minor children by the municipalities? Say what you like about Fell, but he doesn’t pull any punches and communicates his opinions clearly, which is something we can’t say about all politicians.

We are willing to believe mayors Gregor Robertson (Vancouver), Lisa Helps (Victoria) and Colin Basran (Kelowna) have a good grasp of the issues facing their communities. We’d also bet money they have no idea where Grafton Road or the Meadowood store are located.

Short of joining larger municipalities, what are the solutions for rural residents in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region to this “lack of democracy” cited by director Fell? We’re not certain, but we do get the impression this will come to a head in the RDN within the next 10 years as these rural areas continue to grow in population and the stress on their infrastructure deepens.

— Editorial by John Harding