Commen-Terry: Hornby Islanders ‘get’ democracy

94.6 per cent of eligible voters cast a vote in recent referendum

Once again, Hornby Islanders bucked the trend when it comes to the democratic process.

The rest of Canada could learn a lot from this caring community.

According to the Comox Valley Regional District, there are 834 eligible voters living on Hornby Island.

On Saturday, there was a referendum held by the regional district, seeking approval for a $1.9 million loan to help build a new fire hall on Hornby Island.

The referendum came about after the residents denied the funding, through the controversial Alternative Approval Process.

In order for an AAP to be denied, 10 per cent of residents have to oppose the bylaw, by submitting a written response of opposition.

Many people disapprove of the AAP in general, saying it relies too heavily on dissenters to speak up, and does not fairly represent the voice of the majority.

According to James Warren of the regional district, the CVRD has used one or two AAPs per year, on average, to seek approval for issues, since 2008, when the CVRD was first established.

The Hornby Island fire hall issue was the first AAP to ever receive the minimum 10 per cent of respondents.

In that vote, 25 per cent of Hornby Islanders submitted response forms opposing the adoption of the bylaw, forcing the issue to a referendum.

Saturday’s referendum produced a 623-126 victory for the ‘yes’ vote; an overwhelming majority of Hornby residents showed support for the government’s request to borrow money for a new fire hall.

What’s interesting – and this is where Canada could take a lesson – is that an amazing 94.6 per cent of eligible voters cast a vote in the referendum.

Although I was fruitless in my search for such an obscure record, I would hazard a guess that 94.6 per cent voter turnout for any general populace vote at the civic level or higher must be, if not the highest turnout ever, certainly close to the top.

Now, many people could say “what else is there to do on Hornby Island on a Saturday afternoon?”

To those people, I remind that last Saturday was the nicest day of 2015 on the West Coast. From boating, to fishing, to gardening, to lounging on the shorelines, there was a long list of things to do last Saturday that are more appealing than voting – guaranteed a longer list than the appealing options for most B.C. residents on, say, Nov. 15, 2014 (the date of the B.C. civic elections).

And yet, Hornby Islanders showed up in droves, making certain that the majority of those affected by the result of this vote actually took part in this vote.

It is also interesting that substantially fewer people voted against the loan in the referendum than during the AAP. A total of 212 response forms were received by the regional district during the AAP process.

There were only 126 votes against the loan in the referendum, meaning that at least 40 per cent of the dissenters during the AAP changed their minds in the past two months.

That implies that the people who voted against the AAP were not necessarily opposed to the loan itself; they were either opposed to the process, or they wanted more information on the loan before accepting the tax increase that will occur.

Either way it shows an incredible effort on the part of Hornby residents to be involved with the governmental procedure.

Hornby Islanders actually do care about what happens in their community – they care enough not to just bark about it on social media, but to actually let their voices be heard in official manners. They gave their council the go-ahead for a project they will all be paying for, for the next two decades.

And you can bet the politicians already know that the residents of Hornby Island will not tolerate this project coming in over budget.

Well done, Hornby Islanders.

You give us reason to believe that there is hope for the democratic process.

Terry Farrell is the editor of the Comox Valley Record

 

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