Something I like to do every few years in this column is to undertake a few what-if experiments with municipal boundaries. Since we’ve got municipal elections coming up, and candidates declaring left, right, and centre, this seems like a perfect time to try again.
First, remember that the lines dividing up Langley City and Township, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, Burnaby, Vancouver, New West, and all the rest, are contingent, and somewhat arbitrary. There is no reason why Vancouver couldn’t be three cities (as it once was – South Vancouver and Point Grey were independent until 1929).
So here’s a few ideas, if we could erase the lines and start fresh.
• Mega City Surrey (and Vancouver)
People used to love to give Surrey a rhetorical kicking, but it’s going to be the largest municipality in B.C. by population in five to 10 years.
And once it’s bigger than Vancouver, why shouldn’t it get bigger still?
Every once in a while, someone wants to do to the Metro Vancouver area what was done to Toronto and Montreal, when they absorbed their suburbs and became mega-cities.
That never happened here, but perhaps it should? Just not with Vancouver at the centre. After all, there’s this big river dividing our Metro area in two.
So why not two megacities?
Vancouver can gobble up Burnaby and New West and the Tri Cities.
But Surrey will get everything from Delta to Abbotsford. Richmond can flip a coin to decide where it goes.
• The Aldergrove Secession
Aldergrove is far from forgotten in local politics, but with the Township of Langley weighted more and more by population to the west, and with a broad divide of rural land between Aldergrove and the next nearest neighbourhood, it has the least in common with its Langley siblings of Murrayville, Fort Langley, Brookswood, and so on.
How about Aldergrove City?
It could take in Gloucester and Glen Valley, too, and maybe a few chunks of rural Abbotsford. A vibrant and compact village centre, serving rural farms and several regional parks. Seems like a more organic community than most!
• Government by bioregion
Or, we could build our municipalities based on the flow of water.
People living in the Salmon River watershed all have at least one thing in common. The same is true of those living over the Brookswood aquifer, or on the Nicomekl floodplain.
Why not divide up municipal boundaries based on bioregions – the areas that collectively share watersheds and aquifers? Governance would flow from small bioregions to larger, so the biggest regional governments would be the Fraser River Basin Council and the Serpentine River Council. All of which, of course, would be answerable to the Greater Salish Sea District, which would also include Greater Victoria and Nanaimo.