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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sandy Carmichael is a Goldstream Gazette 2021 Local Hero as Seniors’ Champion. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Worker bee returns to volunteer: Sandy Carmichael a fixture at Langford Royal Canadian Legion

Sandy Carmichael is the 2021 recipient of the Seniors’ Champion Award

West Shore Parks and Recreation facilities face a challenging future in terms of funding, due to reduced operations throughout the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore Parks and Recreation faces challenging future

West Shore Parks and Recreation Society submits 2021 budget request to owner municipalities

The It’s Critical campaign has raised $5.89 million towards its $7 million goal to expand critical care capacity at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)
Critical care improvements make the list with Greater Victoria shoppers

Save-On-Foods pledges $300,000 to Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s It’s Critical campaign

Approximately 100 people gathered in Centennial Square Saturday afternoon to listen to speakers decry COVID-19 restrictions. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Victoria residents protest masks, COVID-19 restrictions

Approximately 100 people gathered in Centennial Square Saturday afternoon

Saskatoon resident liajah Pidskalny poses with his bike near the University of Victoria after putting on thousands of kilometres to raise awareness of the overdose and mental health crisis. (Courtesy Iliajah Pidskalny)
Saskatoon cyclist winds up mental health and overdose awareness ride in Victoria

Iliajah Pidskalny braves prairie winter conditions to get word out to communities

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Most Read