EDITORIAL: Province has 911 solution

A charge to wireless customers to pay for 911 emergency service makes sense, but only if it’s enacted across B.C.

A charge to wireless customers to pay for 911 emergency service makes sense, but only if it’s enacted across B.C.

Nanaimo’s attempt was well-intentioned and likely to push the matter toward the logical solution of a provincewide system.

More than half of the 50,000 annual 911 calls to the Nanaimo emergency dispatch centre now come from mobile devices, but neither wireless users or carriers pay toward the central Island infrastructure.

Meanwhile, land-line users do contribute to help pay for the service, but the number of people opting out of land lines is increasing, meaning less money to pay for operating the 911 system.

It all adds up to a $1 million shortfall in the central Island, which dispatches 911 from the Malahat to north of Lantzville.

It’s entirely reasonable to look for a way to bring mobile customers on board in paying for the vital 911 service.

But as wireless providers point out, collecting on a municipal basis would be next to impossible.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge agreed and tossed out Nanaimo’s bylaw, approved by council in 2010, and later approved by both the Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley regional districts.

The only reasonable and equitable way to implement a 911 call levy is to do so across the board, throughout the entire province. That’s what three eastern provinces, as well as Saskatchewan, recognized and brought in.

Given that the wireless companies have indicated willingness to sign 911 levy agreements on a provincial basis, a fact the judge noted in his ruling, it’s a mystery why our legislators in Victoria are dragging their feet.

Perhaps Nanaimo’s efforts will be sufficient to send the necessary message to Victoria, provided our MLAs have the presence of mind to answer the call.