Despite 51 per cent of respondents opposing a tax increase to operate an ice rink, the West Coast Multiplex Society was encouraged by the recently released results of an Alberni Clayoquot Regional District survey.
“We’re actually very excited,” society chairperson Samantha Hackett told the Westerly News.
“One of the key things that we saw in the survey, which anyone who’s looked at it will see, is that the people living and working in any one of the communities, those are the people that do support the project as presented.”
She noted that, while 54 per cent of property owners who responded to the survey opposed the project, opposition among renters was much lower at 34 per cent. She said that renters represent a larger portion of local residents and suggested many property owners do not live in the area.
“It does look like, from the survey, more of the owners, the people not living in the community, are maybe not in support. But, I think, we all agree that we don’t want the people not living in the community to dictate the future of the community. It should be the people living and working [in the community;] the renters of the community, that can drive the direction of the project going forward,” she said.
“Only about 30 per cent of renters don’t support the project, so I feel like that sends a clear message.”
She added the majority of individual communities supported the project, with Tofino, 59 per cent opposed, and Electoral Area C, 57 per cent opposed, being the only two of the West Coast’s eight communities where opposition outnumbered support.
Support among First Nations was high, including 88.9 per cent approval from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, 63.6 per cent from Toquaht and 62.5 per cent from Ahousaht.
“That was something that wasn’t surprising to us, but obviously nice to see,” Hackett said adding the support from Ahousaht was particularly encouraging because of the distance and boat-ride Ahousaht’s locals would need to take to reach the facility.
She added comments around the facility being closer, or in, a specific community were expected, but misguided and added “years of work” have gone into selecting and obtaining the proposed site near Long Beach Airport.
“Although, obviously, any one community would want a facility in their own community, I think everybody understands the value of having a more neutral and central location for everybody,” she said.
“We’ve done so much research and we know that this is the best direction for the West Coast for all eight communities. We’ve worked with each of the eight communities so closely to make sure that everybody has been part of this project and that their best interest is in mind.”
The most frequent comment from survey respondents called for a swimming pool before an ice rink, but Hackett said the society does not believe changing the current order—an ice rink first and a swimming pool second—is what the West Coast really wants to see.
“Obviously, we’ve heard loud and clear that we want a pool, but we also know that equally loud and clear from the community is that they want a rink. With the research that we’ve done, we know that we can afford both at the multiplex location if they’re done together and done properly and if they’re done in the order that they’re done,” she said.
“We still believe that the best way for a pool in any one of the communities would be through the multiplex by having a rink first, then a pool.”