- Our Town
Bowen needs status as a rural community
We may have a population of well under 4 thousand people, and we may not have any stoplights, but because Bowen Island is technically a part of Metro Vancouver, it is not defined as a rural community. According to Gordon Ganong, chair of the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC), we’ve missed out on many opportunities because of that.
“There’s an organization called Community Futures, which exists to promote economic development in rural areas,” says Ganong, “And when we met with people from this organization back in June, they told us we weren’t even on their radar.”
Fortunately, Damien Bryan, a Bowen resident who is taking a regional economic development course at SFU helped to forge a relationship between Bowen and Community Futures, inviting his classmate Sharon Anderchuk to give a talk to local businesses here.
“Sharon works with Community Futures in Sechelt,” says Bryan, “And from the perspective of the Sunshine Coast, we are definitely rural, and we qualify to work with Community Futures. If you spoke with someone from the organization in downtown Vancouver you would likely get an entirely different response.
Following Anderchuk’s talk, she met with four local business owners who may be eligible for assistance through the program.
Ganong points to the Gas Tax as another instance where Bowen suffers because it is a part of Metro Vancouver.
In September, the Municipality’s manager of finance, Kirsten Watson, wrote a report showing that funds collected through the Gas Tax on Bowen go straight to Metro Vancouver, whereas other similarly-sized communities get to access the money collected through the tax.
Cumberland BC, a town of 3,398, for example, received more than $1 million in funding through the Gas Tax.
At this year’s Union of BC Municipalities meeting, attending members of the EDAC and Council learned of another resource Bowen was not accessing because of its urban status. BC offers economic development advisors through the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training. Historically, these advisors were only accessible to rural communities, but because of demands made by Bowen and other communities across the Province, their work now covers more diverse territory.
Bowen’s advisor, Nygil Goggins, works with communities on Northern Vancouver Island, the Sea to Sky region and the Sunshine Coast. His first visit official visit to Bowen was in November of this year. In working with the municipality, he is using his network to make connections with various granting agencies but also to help develop an economic development plan.
“In comparison to a lot of other communities I’ve worked with Bowen is actually doing really well,” says Goggins. “The municipality is just beginning its official economic development plan, but Bowen as a whole has a much higher average income than other rural areas, and much higher property values, and that’s because of its proximity to Metro Vancouver.”
Mayor Jack Adelaar says that revisiting Bowen’s relationship with Metro Vancouver in terms of changing the way money is distributed from the Gas Tax is front and centre among council’s priorities.
“That said,” says Adelaar, “I am quite happy to have Metro Vancouver on my side when it comes to talking to BC Ferries.”