EDITORIAL: Snow refugees

If population continues to dip in Qualicum Beach, tough decisions about the level of service and/or tax increases will have to be made

Saved by the snow.

In a story in today’s edition of The NEWS, French Creek regional district director Joe Stanhope surmises the rough winter in Central and Eastern Canada could mean an influx of new residents for the Parksville Qualicum Beach region.

It’s a reasonable theory. Raise your hand if you have ever watched TV news coverage of the poor souls digging out of their snowbound houses in, say, Moncton and immediately sent an e-mail or text to your friends and relatives there with a photo of your blooming flowers or that day’s golf scorecard.

Ice scraper for the windshield of the car? Sorry, not familiar with that product.

If Chairman Joe’s theory has any merit, we could see frustrated New Brunswickers load up the truck with all their belongings and trek across the country to settle in this region. And once they see how much it costs to get their stuff here on the ferry they won’t be able to leave.

However, relying on the weather advantage to ensure our population doesn’t drastically dip isn’t exactly a progressive strategy. The statistics in our story today don’t send us to the panic button. They show Parksville and the surrounding rural areas increased slightly, by 0.6 and 0.9 per cent respectively, while the population in Qualicum Beach dipped by 0.5 per cent.

These numbers would be well within any plus/minus factor, and they are estimates from the provincial government’s stats bureau. They are not Statistics Canada numbers from any official census.

One could also argue a dip, or flatline, in population is natural and healthy and will have little or no effect on the services we have come to expect for our tax dollar. Thing is, the cost of operating a town or city continues to rise, regardless of the population. Staff — union and non-union — generally get increases every year. The goods and services used by municipalities rise in price every year. Meanwhile, help in the form of transfer payments from senior governments aren’t increasing, and municipalities are being asked to do more with less.

Without an increase in population and jobs and some kind of tax-generating new businesses, a town like Qualicum Beach will eventually — perhaps sooner rather than later — have to make tough choices about the services it provides taxpayers, or tough choices about tax increases.

With our demographic also in mind, we can’t see why any municipality here would stand in the way of plans for new, job-creating businesses and resorts.

— Editorial by John Harding

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