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North Van councillor envisions new regional district

New district focusing on ‘mountain folks’ would include Squamish

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A candidate for council in the District of North Vancouver is proposing that communities at the bases of mountains look to creating a new regional district.

Doug MacKay-Dunn, an incumbent councillor now seeking a third term, is frustrated with North Vancouver’s place on the board of Metro Vancouver and wants to examine the possibility of creating a new district that would include “mountain folks” — communities living at the bases of mountains such as Squamish, West Vancouver and Lions Bay.

“It’s becoming too large, too bureaucratic, too expensive,” he said of Metro Vancouver, which provides services to communities including Vancouver, Surrey, North Vancouver and West Vancouver.

MacKay-Dunn feels that Vancouver and Surrey, due to their population, have a level of influence at the board that trumps smaller communities such as North Vancouver.

“Essentially Surrey and Vancouver run it,” he said.

MacKay feels communities such as North Vancouver and West Vancouver would fit better under a “Sea to Sky Regional District” that could also include communities such as Bowen Island and Squamish.

It’s a proposal that he’s using as part of his campaign, his third after two successful ones, in 1999 and 2005.

“We have more in common with those communities that live at the base of mountains,” he said in an interview. “I’ve decided to lay this on the table and say folks, it’s time to look at this. Is it viable? Would Whistler be interested? Would Squamish be interested?”

Though he’s not sure whether Whistler would be included in a new regional district, he’s certainly targeting Squamish, which he said is becoming home to many more people who work in Vancouver.

“Squamish is becoming a bedroom community, not only for Whistler but also for Vancouver,” MacKay-Dunn said. “There’s a lot of folks living in Squamish that work in Vancouver. If you live in South Surrey it almost takes you the same time to get to Vancouver as to Squamish.”

Metro Vancouver provides a myriad of services to communities that lie within its boundaries. Those services include drinking water, sewage and solid waste management, all of them services that the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District provides to communities within its purview.

The District of Squamish currently lies within that constituency, but it takes care of those services on its own.

MacKay-Dunn said that communities such as North Vancouver could still be a “client” to Metro Vancouver for services such as water and sewage, but he ultimately feels it’s time to revisit the way that regional districts are run.

“I would like the B.C. Auditor General to have a look at (Metro Vancouver) because it’s a significant cost,” he said. “It’s always nice to make sure that your money is being well spent and I’m suspicious that perhaps it hasn’t been.”

MacKay-Dunn also said that sources within the provincial government have told him that B.C. is looking at doing a review of the province’s regional districts.

“That’s been coming down the pipe, that’s been talked about,” MacKay-Dunn said. “When the review is being conducted, that’s when we should be looking at, well what about a Sea to Sky Regional District involving those communities on the north and the foot of the mountains, to see if that would work.”

Blair Lekstrom, B.C.’s minister of community development, was in Whistler for a B.C. Liberal Party convention last weekend. He told Pique in an interview that the provincial government has signed a letter of understanding with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities to look at regional districts, their governance models and what’s working under the current arrangement.

“I don’t think there’s a year that goes by that regional districts don’t say, hey, you know, let’s have a look,” he said. “Let’s see if we can improve on what we’re doing.”

When asked how likely it is that people will soon see some new regional districts in B.C., he said that a push to make that happen would have to come from local governments.

“It isn’t something as a minister that I’m prepared to come in and impose on people,” Lekstrom said. “If local areas and people that are represented there come and say look, I think we have a good idea, we’re always willing to look at it.”

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