OUR VIEW: Bridging the urban-rural divide important

We say: The city just has different needs from the rural areas

One of Campbell River’s challenges identified in its strategic plan adopted March 11 is its relationship with the Strathcona Regional District.

Anybody having watched the proceedings of the Strathcona Regional District will be aware of that challenging relationship. It may be the nature of the beast but the regional district board directors line up on either side of the urban-rural divide, most of the time.

One of the roles of regional districts is to bring municipal and rural areas together to work out infrastructure and service delivery for the benefit of the region as a whole. Too often, though, the board pits the interests of the rural areas against the interests of the urban areas. And usually the tone of the debate is one of resisting the heavy-handedness of municipal interests.

The Strathcona Regional District board is fairly typical. You have one large urban area, the City of Campbell River, and  five small or rural districts (Area D [Oyster Bay-Buttle Lake], Area C [Quadra Island, mainland inlets, Discovery Islands], Cortes Island, Gold River, and Area A [Kyuquot/Nootka/Sayward]). But the way the system works is that Campbell River has an agenda that is different from the surrounding areas. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, the city  has different needs. As a larger urban centre it has challenges that the other parts of the region don’t face. It also has resources available to it that allow it to pursue its needs and often uses the regional district to help it achieve its desired outcomes. That’s not to say that municipal directors individually and the city representatives as a block don’t work towards fulfilling the needs of the rural areas.

And then there are the personalities on the board and the water under the bridge between long-serving members. It all points to the need to repair relationships fractured over the years. Hopefully, the city and the board can be successful with that.