Les Leyne: Islanders yearn for independence

Enjoy this B.C. Day long weekend, Vancouver Islanders, because it could be one of your last.

After we have been getting along quite comfortably for 147 years as a vital part of the province, not one but two separatist groups have sprung up to advance the idea that Vancouver Island should go it alone.

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These people are to be viewed with suspicion.

On the eve of B.C. Day, I stand proudly for the garish flag, the stoner reputation, subsidized bike paths and the sacred laid-back West Coast lifestyle (heavily supported by federal pensions). In the face of these upstart separatist notions, it’s never been more important to follow the Island mantra: Leave things alone, we like them just the way they are.

It’s particularly dubious that there are two separate bunches of separatists. If they can’t get together to agree on how to pull the province apart, how many breakaway groups will form to lead breakaways from the breakaways?

The Island could easily wind up as a balkanized string of semi-autonomous communes if this goes anywhere. We’re well down that road as it is. The capital region already boasts 13 separate municipalities.

The first out of the gate a few weeks ago was the Sovereign State of Vancouver Island movement. They got so exercised about a federal riding boundary change that splits the village of Cumberland down the middle they advanced their launch date.

The Nanaimo Daily News tracked them down in the midst of that argument. Two Conservative MPs objected to a boundary change that splits Courtenay down the middle, so they offered an alternative that splits Cumberland, instead.

SSVI, which was already planning to start an independence campaign, seized on the Cumberland solution and opened the campaign early. They cite federal “neglect, intransigence and oversight” and now want to bolt.

But if federal neglect were grounds for separation, everything west of Thunder Bay would have seceded ages ago.

Thankfully, the comments section of that newspaper reflect some common sense.

“These people need to put their tinfoil hats back on.”

“How could Vancouver Island be its own country? Your primary export is illegal.”

Another reader pointed out that half of Canada’s navy is floating in Esquimalt. That’s a good point to keep in mind. If things were to get ugly, it would take a lot more than sport-fishing boats and stand-up paddle boards to break away from Canada. Even if the submarines are useless.

The rival movement is somewhat milder, in that they only want to secede from B.C.

They have some hazy vision of Vancouver Island becoming a separate province of Canada.

Laurie Gourlay of the Vancouver Island Province movement has a pretty website and two petitions so far with 106 signatures on them.

“It’s like reaching maturity,” he told me. “It’s the right time. You hit 21 and it’s time to leave home. You’re not saying you hate your parents, you just think it’s time to manage your own affairs.”

But anyone watching the sewage-treatment debates knows that we’re still a few years and about $800 million away from that frame of mind.

The outfit is working toward a referendum in a few years and wants to see Vancouver Island declared a province by 2021.

The website is full of poetic observations about self-sufficient Island life and interesting historical facts. It’s got everything except a solid reason for breaking away from B.C.

Because there isn’t one. The Salish Sea gives the Island all the geographic separation it needs. For political separation, all people need to do is look at the election results.

There are only two government members on the entire Island. And the nearest one is 160 kilometres away from the legislature. We’re already safely separated from the threat of the provincial government doing anything on the Island. We just don’t realize it.

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