GUEST COMMENT: Rural voters dissatisfied with disparity of system

I was a candidate in the area with the lowest voter turnout in the Regional District of Nanaimo.

To the Editor,

I was a candidate in the area with the lowest voter turnout in the Regional District of Nanaimo, 13.3 per cent, down 11.4 per cent from the 2008 election turnout.

Although I was not successful in being elected, I did get a good chance to meet residents at the doorstep.

Time and again I was met with the admonishment, specific to Area A, that “it doesn’t matter who gets in, they’ll do what they want anyway.”

Many of those I spoke with in this rural area are feeling bullied by the City of Nanaimo and RDN board decisions which often ignore local residents’ wishes.

I was told about a lack of accountability, and consultations that are often token – meant to push government and development agendas that have already been decided behind closed doors.

Why bother to vote, they asked me, when it doesn’t make a difference?

My only recourse was to suggest that this time things would change, that someone would stand up for their interests. That a strong representative could ensure that the City of Nanaimo does not vote as a block and ignore their concerns, or that the RDN will not rubber stamp urban tax grabs, or permit developments to be dumped on their border that externalize problems onto rural residents.

With minimum coverage of rural issues during the election, however, and only one hastily-organized all-candidates meeting on a Sunday night, Area A voters were feeling that they neither knew the candidates nor understood what they promised to do if elected.

In other words, residents I met were feeling ignored, and victimized by a system that facilitates RDN and city decisions without regard to the effect it has on them.

Development plans are being fast-tracked, water taken from local aquifers, and government appears to simply go through the motions of public consultations – with decisions already made behind closed doors.

My impression was that the low vote here is indicative of a battered electorate, and a political voting system within the RDN board that permits the city to run the show.

If we want to see voters express their democratic right we need to show them that their votes count, that their concerns will be heard and their interests honestly addressed.

I’d like to also suggest that, with climate change and food security concerns increasing, and greenspaces and habitat being rapidly lost, urban voters need to consider how they will require their elected representatives to vote with rural areas and the greater public interest in mind.

Covering every available hectare of land with a mall, store or residential development is not the answer.

At the  moment I am sorry to say that many in Area A believe the system is broken, and they will register their vote by not showing up on election day.

‘City folk’, the onus is then on you, until the system is changed. You need to require a significant change in the way decisions are made if we want a balanced and sustainable approach to our collective and mid-Island needs – one that will not impose an urban self-interest upon rural neighbours.

Laurie Gourlay

Cedar

Just Posted

Construction work continues on the City of Nanaimo’s new Fire Station No. 1 on Fitzwilliam Street. (News Bulletin file)
Next phase of borrowing approved as Nanaimo fire hall construction ongoing

City of Nanaimo CAO says construction on Fitzwilliam Street hall on schedule and budget

Nanaimo Fire Rescue firefighters at the scene of a single-vehicle crash on Tenth Street near Southside Drive on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Driver OK after crashing vehicle off the side of Nanaimo’s Tenth Street

Crews say wet roads a factor a crash Sunday, June 13

Emergency crews on scene of a two-car crash at the intersection of Cranberry Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Crash blocks Cranberry intersection in Nanaimo, no one injured

Incident blocks both southbound lanes of Trans-Canada Highway

(PQB News file photo)
Fireworks report highlights enforcement challenges for Regional District of Nanaimo

Director: ‘I just think it’s wasting everybody’s time’

Nanaimo is the first city in Canada to subscribe to the Chonolog environment photo-monitoring system, which allow residents to contribute photos of habitat restoration projects that are converted to time lapse sequences showing environmental changes. (Chris Bush/ News Bulletin)
Nanaimo residents invited to be citizen scientists by sharing habitat restoration photos

Nanaimo first city in Canada to sign up for Chronolog environment photo monitoring service

Emergency crews on scene of a two-car crash at the intersection of Cranberry Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Crash blocks Cranberry intersection in Nanaimo, no one injured

Incident blocks both southbound lanes of Trans-Canada Highway

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

A view of the outside of St. Andrews Roman Catholic Cathedral on Victoria’s Blanshard Street. (Don Denton/News staff)
Vancouver Island bishop apologizes for church’s role in residential schools

Bishop Gary Gordon of the Diocese of Victoria voices commitment to healing and reconciliation

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

Most Read