Welcome to Nanaimo, the ‘Green Gateway’ of Vancouver Island

Laurie Gourlay of the Mid Island Sustainability and Stewardship Initiative addresses Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney.


Editor’s Note: This is an open letter to Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada, as he prepares to come to Nanaimo to present to the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA).

Dear Mr Carney,

On behalf of Mid Island Sustainability and Stewardship Initiative (MISSI) and the mid-Island region, we’d like to welcome you to Nanaimo, a place that some of us are referring to as the Green Gateway to Vancouver Island!

Be that the greenbacks of economic sustainability, or the resilient green of nature, we’re sure you’ll enjoy your stay in the Green Gateway. Many of us are looking forward to your presentation to the VIEA State of the Island Economic Summit … and hope the Economy and Ecology session that offers a 50-Year Vision for Vancouver Island will be of particular interest.

We think this long-term approach is critical to Canada’s future, as much as it is to the Island and our local region. In the mid-Island, MISSI has been advancing a Green Gateway proposal, to bring together several outstanding natural and resource environments that also enhance eco-tourism, business, and the quality of life for residents.

While the Nanaimo Port Authority rightfully points to the $60 to $70 per day that cruise ship visitors bring to the local economy, we’re also pleased to note that trail and park users of greenspace brought in an average of $100 per day back in the 1980s — probably $150 nowadays. So, economic and ecological interests can work together here for mutual benefits and long-term returns.

By working with the Port Authority, economic development agencies and local governments, we’re  hoping to see the proposed National Marine Conservation Area extended a few more kilometres to bring these economic and ecological returns to the Nanaimo Estuary and region.

We’re encouraged in these efforts by such authorities as the US Department of Commerce, who concluded in a 1998 report that … “Estuaries provide habitat for more than 75 per cent of the U.S. commercial fish catch, … [and] contribute $4.3 billion a year to the U.S. economy.”

And too, the 2010 University of Delaware economic impact study found that the Delaware upland watershed supplies drinking water and, with the estuary, contributes over $10 billion annually to the region’s economy.

Which brings us upstream, to our second link in the Green Gateway — the Nanaimo River watershed. As with the Delaware study, this watershed is the region’s primary source of drinking water, has been the forest industry’s economic driver for the economy of the last 50 years, and offers ongoing, multiple sustainable benefits, including that of climate mitigation and sequestration.

The Nanaimo River watershed also links, via an alpine top-of the-mountain route, to the Mt Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve — a UNESCO example of a balanced working model that protects bottom-line ecological values … while attracting visitors and researchers from around the world, and simultaneously stimulating local and Island economies.

And that’s our greenbelt around Nanaimo’s region — three major outstanding natural assets that can sustainably drive a diversified economy for all residents — which of course is the goal of the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance that you will be speaking to.

If you really want  more bang for the buck, though, we’d be happy to talk with you about the Trans Canada Trail, railroads and rights-of-way that connect our greenspace to the north, south, east and west from Nanaimo. With ferries from Vancouver, circle trips to Port Alberni and Comox, and weekend cycling through the Gulf Islands to Victoria and back, we really are the hub and Green Gateway to Vancouver Island.

You’ll find we’re quite friendly here on the Island, happy to share the wealth and, given the chance, pleased to show you around. We’re sure you’ll find Nanaimo’s sustainable development approach to our economy, social and ecological future to be one that serves the local, as well as our national, best interest.

Here in Nanaimo, you’ll also find a healthy and heartfelt willingness to serve, combined with a commitment to community and conservation. We think the efforts to achieve sustainability, that sees persons like yourself and those in VIEA act to steward the world in our backyard, can encourage us all.  So … Welcome to Nanaimo Mr Carney. Don’t be a stranger!

All the best,

Laurie Gourlay

President, MISSI