Thursday, December 07, 2006

What Does The Big City Owe The Countryside?

The population of Greater Vancouver has grown by more than a third over the past 15 years, and it’s now possible for a political party to win control of government in British Columbia - a jurisdiction larger than California, Oregon and Washington combined - without electing a single MLA from outside the Lower Mainland.

In vast stretches of countryside, such as the North Coast and the Cariboo-Chilcotin, they’re losing people. As British Columbia becomes an ever more urban place, the things that matter most to rural people tend to get eclipsed by big-city concerns. It’s a dynamic that feeds on itself, exponentially.

That's what my Georgia Straight column is about today.

While the metropolis grows, the countryside’s political clout diminishes, and so does Victoria’s commitment to the higher per-capita infrastructure costs associated with small-town life. As a result, it’s harder for B.C.’s small towns to hold on to their hospitals, schools, roads, libraries, and all those other things that city people tend to take for granted.

As basic infra­structure withers, small-town life be­­comes an even bleaker prospect, owing to declining provincial attention to sustainable forestry, fisheries, farming, and all those other bread-and-butter rural concerns that tend to have only an abstract meaning for city people.
The hinterland then loses more people, and small towns spiral ever faster downward.

The dynamic is compounded by the inevitable deracination and atomization of British Columbian society. Politics and public policy become less rooted in place, less influenced by the landscape itself and by the distinct regional cultures and communities that evolved precisely because of those landscapes.

So what to do about this?

British Columbians, from the towns and the cities and everything in between, made their views known to the British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission. The deadline for making a submission was Friday, November 30. But they keep coming in. You can read them all here.


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