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General News · 24th October 2019
Manda Aufochs Gillespie
I’m voting YES and YES this Saturday, to preserve what is beautiful about the Cortes Community and to safeguard the lifestyle of rural Canada. I want to have a voice in our essential public services and infrastructure. And I don’t want these services to disappear because a bureaucrat in Ottawa, Victoria, or Campbell River doesn’t understand the importance of funding them.

Rural communities have very few tools to ensure their voices are honoured. I highly value our community halls, where we have markets, social events, music, theatre, and community gatherings. I value our First Responders, who save lives, care for our health, and support all of us. As islanders, we understand what is at stake if there is nobody to answer a 9-1-1 call on our local island or if there is no place to host a social event or community market, yet our funding for these things has been dependent on convincing urban bureaucrats and elected officials in the past. Now, we have a chance (via the cumbersome political process that has been set up for rural Canadians) to take some control in preserving these valuable services. 

The vote this Saturday, October 26, is a chance for Cortesians to take back our autonomy, to tell the story of ourselves as a community, of resourceful individuals who will use our voice to fight for our share of recognition and representation. 

The stories others tell us about ourselves
There are so many daily decisions that affect our lives based on stories; some of which are true and some of which are factual but don’t actually tell the whole story.

Fact: Canada is one of the most urbanized countries in the world. About 80% of our population lives in an urban area. Many decisions that affect our daily lives on a little island are rooted in this urbanization story. Our daily lives are shaped by people who believe that Canada is primarily an urban country and that urban concerns are what counts. Urban-centric people might wonder: What good are ferries to remote islands? Why do we support rural high schools, safer country roads, small community centres, remote healthcare services, or training for first responders on a small island? Elected officials need to appeal to the majority, the urbanites. They may not feel it is important to fund rural services for the 20-percent. 

Most of our taxes — sales tax, income taxes, and excise taxes — go to provincial and federal governments. Municipalities and regional districts rely primarily on the much smaller property taxes. Income taxes far exceed property taxes. About 20% of public income goes for income taxes, whereas only 2.9% goes for property taxes. Sales taxes range between 5 and 15% of the sales price of goods. 

A rural family may pay similar taxes as an urbanite, our representatives do not have the same authority to provide us with services as federal, provincial or municipal governments do. As the Strathcona Regional District staff explained at the meeting at Manson’s Hall in June about the hall tax bylaw, the SRD board cannot provide a new service to an electoral area without getting the consent of the electorate. As well, a rural community rarely sees the benefit of services controlled by the federal and provincial governments. Consider, for example, affordable housing and transit. Households on Cortes pay for affordable housing and transit projects primarily destined for cities. On our remote island, we face challenges to come up with the local funding for these services (such as the 40% local matching funds to operate a transit bus). Our rural community rarely if ever gets chosen for these projects.

This common story about Canada as an urbanized country contributes to the loss of island resources over the years: affordable ferries, island schools, teaching positions, and North Island college programs, community centres, first responders, a credit union. We are now at risk of losing more: current plans could reduce services at our local hospital, ambulance providers, and other essential aspects of our daily life. We may have little or no say in these decisions and the decision-makers may not understand the basic needs of rural Canadians. 

Fact: among nations of 10-million people or more, Canada is the second-least densely populated, with only about 4 people per square-kilometre. This fact confirms my feelings as a rural person. As I see it, we are a country of huge diversity and space, with many rural and small town people. We exist well together as Canadians if we honour the autonomy and remoteness that defines this country.

As a rural Canadian, I want to have a voice in the services and infrastructure that affect my life, such as having community halls and first responders. I want the funding for these services protected and I am willing to pay this tax because it is essentially the only way for a rural community to protect such services.

This Saturday, October 26, I am going to stand up for the autonomy of rural Canadians. I am going to vote Yes and Yes to support our community halls and our first responders. 
Equitable sharing of the taxes
Comment by Hélène Aubé on 25th October 2019
I am not against these taxes, what I am against is the way that it will be implemented. Why, do I as a property owner, have to bear the burden of paying these taxes? Why, as implemented all over the country, a tax to all visitors, such a Airbnb, Bed and Breakfast, Motel, Hotels, camp sites, renters as well as property owners, then it would be equitable. Also, the the voting process, anyone here for 30 days, even if they do not have identification? Really?