Will Vancouver Island be Canada’s 11th province?

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

There's another separatist movement afoot in Canada.

No, this one has nothing to do with La belle province.

There's actually a group on Canada's west coast that has embarked upon a campaign to begin a public debate into whether or not Vancouver Island should become its own province.

Certainly, on the surface, it sounds like a hair-brained scheme or even some sort of a prank.

But Scott Akenhead — one the organizers of the group dubbed Vancouver Island (VI) Province — says that they're dead serious about it.

"It's not a new idea, by any means," he told Yahoo! Canada News in a Skype interview on Sunday.

"But nobody has actually taken this on in a practical way.

"No one is saying that we should rush into this...I'm just saying that it deserves studying. My schedule for this is that's it's going to take at least eight years to work out what are the issues, what are the solutions to the issues, what do people really feel about this? Are we confident that this is the right thing to do?"

Akenhead's pitch — if you will — includes a history lesson: He notes that prior to confederation, Vancouver Island was it's own colony with its own legislative assembly. He also points out that, with 765,000 residents, the Island has a population greater than six of Canada's provinces and territories.

And they truly believe that Islanders would be better off if they had greater control of their own economic planning, ecosystem sustainability and ongoing measures for health and well-being.

"I'm not sure that having 14 MLAs out 85 in B.C. means that the Island is getting the attention it deserves from that kind of level of government," he said.

"There's also the issue of culture of an Island as opposed to the culture of the mainland. It's not just a pace of life, and the fact that people are friendly and that nobody locks their doors. It's that there's also a lot more tendency to be sharing and collaborative and community oriented in a way that isn't quite the same in the hustle and bustle of big mainland cities."

[ Related: Should Victoria lose its status as British Columbia’s capital? ]

Akenhead admits that he doesn't have answers to all the questions about what it would take to separate. Would separation require unanimous consent of all other provinces? Would the government of British Columbia have to approve the 'partition'? What about the Island's share of B.C.'s debt?

VI Province's game plan over the summer and fall is to engage experts to help them answer those questions. They're also hoping to submit a series of petitions to the B.C. legislature and Canada's parliament to keep the debate in the public sphere.

If all goes according to plan, Akenhead says they could have their own province by 2021, the 150th anniversary of B.C. joining confederation.

[ More Politics: Canada, Mexico become part of U.S. ‘homeland’ during NSA Senate briefing ]

A political scientist, however, argues that the 'separatists' face an uphill battle.

"Dividing up provinces is not something that’s really happened; the practical obstacles are enormous," James Lawson, a professor at the University of Victoria, told Metro Vancouver adding that other provinces would be averse to "giving another entity a seat at the federal table."

"Even if you could get the [B.C. government] to agree to it, it would be hard to provide incentives for the other provinces to go along."

To sign the petition or to join the Vancouver Island Province movement visit the group's website at viprovince.ca.

Are you a politics junkie?
Follow @politicalpoints on Twitter!