GUEST COLUMN: Urban politicians understand rural lifestyle

Gordon O'Connor of the Dogwood Initiative shares his thoughts on the Juan de Fuca lands scenario

Arguments such as those made in Pirjo Raits’ column of Aug. 19 never go out of style.

For decades now the real estate lobby has been attacking the legitimacy of any government that attempts to protect the rural identity and environment of small communities. Conspiracy theories abound about sinister political motivations and distracting questions are posed about redundant intricacies of existing legislation, but it would do communities well to look critically at whose interests this story line serves.

The recent controversy over urban sprawl in the Juan de Fuca region is a perfect example.

Part of the allure of rural living is the independence of existing outside urban regulations and restrictions. Real estate speculators are playing this card to suggest that public interest in protecting the Juan de Fuca region is an attack on this independence. They suggest that it should be their choice to build new subdivisions and that interference from other communities or from the Capital Regional District is inappropriate.

Many aspects of rural freedom deserve to be protected, but the freedom to flip land with impunity is not one of them. Suggesting it is does not protect the rural lifestyle, it aims to destroy it.

There are fortunes to be made rezoning property in the Juan de Fuca region for vacation home projects. Each time this happens a precedent is set, making it difficult and sometimes illegal to deny similar applications.

One subdivision outside Jordan River could lead to another near Shirley and another just outside Sooke. All of these will eventually require servicing from the region that will outrun the tax revenues they generate.

Moreover, each one brings a little bit more traffic congestion, more noise, garbage, light pollution and a bit less privacy. Each bump in population also creates a corresponding bump in urban-style regulations and bureaucracy that many people came to Juan de Fuca to avoid in the first place.

People in the Juan de Fuca region make their living off the area’s forests. A coastline of seasonally occupied vacation homes would eliminate potential tourism revenue that families in places like Tofino and Ucluelet thrive on and it would destroy opportunities for sustainable forestry operations.

Realtors claim their projects create other employment, but these tend to be seasonal, low-wage service industry jobs. In the long run this pattern drives people into cities to find work, destroying the vitality of rural areas.

Progressive directors on the Capital Regional District (CRD) board who have enough vision to see past the next quarter’s profit margins are giving considerable time to this issue, yet their concerns are being linked to the tired narrative of urban politicians trying to steal autonomy from rural communities.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Their intentions to enforce the Regional Growth Strategy will protect the area from real estate speculators who are chomping at the bit to cover the Juan de Fuca coast with strip malls and condo projects.

The CRD’s involvement is actually preserving rural autonomy. Moreover, the board’s actions have been requested by a number of local groups, such as the Shirley Education and Action Society, the Jordan River Community Association, members of the Shirley Fire Department and countless individuals from the Electoral Area who continue raising their voices against urban sprawl.

Using a simplistic urban-versus-rural narrative and posing redundant questions about whether a 300-house subdivision in the middle of nowhere constitutes urban sprawl is a transparent attempt to discredit legitimate concerns of local residents. It uses the pride that communities in the Juan de Fuca region have in their independence against itself.

Gordon O’Connor (HBSc Env.) is Vancouver Island forest campaigner for the Dogwood Initiative.

Just Posted

Whisky society commits to charity donation in wake of whisky raids

Refund of Victoria Whiskey Festival tickets won’t impact charity beneficiaries

Victoria housing provider launches crisis prevention program to combat homelessness

Pacifica Housing aims to address challenges before tenants risk evictions

Victoria wins crucial WHL contest over Giants in Langley

Royals take over second in B.C. Division ahead of Vancouver

Cordova Bay group against plaza redevelopment

Cordova Bay shopping centre has three, four-storey buildings

Man hospitalized after early morning Sooke Road crash

Police say injuries are non life-threatening

WATCH: Giant waves smash Ucluelet’s Amphitrite Point

Folks made their way to Ucluelet’s Amphitrite Point Lighthouse on Thursday, Jan.… Continue reading

WHL winning streak ends at four in Kelowna for Victoria

Royals lose 8-4 as Rockets explode offensively

Wind warning back in effect around Vancouver Island

80 km/h winds expected Saturday, Jan. 20, on east coast of Island, 100 km/h on west coast

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

UPDATE: BC Transit’s handyDart service strike delayed

LRB application by contractor means new strike notice must be issued by union

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

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

Princeton Judge says Odelle Simmons did not benefit from her crime

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

Most Read