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Da Vinci creator floats idea of Vancouver as a city state

For some TV producers, Vancouver has been a flexible substitute for other places. But Chris Haddock has always let the city be itself.

Vancouver was a key character in the three series he created and engineered as a writer producer and director for more than a decade.

CBC TV's Da Vinci's Inquest and Da Vinci's City Hall traced the evolution of a crusading coroner turned mayor.

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There was also Mr. Haddock's Intelligence, about the fortunes of a city crime boss.

Through his One Big Idea, the Vancouver native, now writing a feature film script and cooking up series ideas, looks at Vancouver as he would like it to be.

Tell me about your big idea

The big idea I have is Vancouver secede from the province of British Columbia and become a city state - establish itself as a legal entity as such. It's worth doing because it would provoke a lot of change in the way we deal with our economy. If Vancouver was to become a city state with its own rules and regs, basically, and a relationship with the federal government and not with the provincial government so much, by dealing directly with the entities that are really doing the business, we could take one step closer to becoming more autonomous.

Where did this idea come from? What made you interested in this idea?

It started with my interest when I was writing [ Da Vinci's] City Hall and I was fishing around for ideas of what [Dominic]Da Vinci could do to really poke somebody in the eye because part of his character was to throw out what were seemingly radical ideas like red-light districts or safe-injection sites and get the idea out there. We need people who can throw ideas out there that may seem mad, but at least can start to be framed for discussion and a point of view differently.

Take me into the future where the City State of Vancouver exists. What does it look like, and how is its operation different from Vancouver as a city today?

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The City State of Vancouver would appear much as it is today, but including the region, that is, the Lower Mainland. The city would have an expanded council, with representatives from the associated cities of Richmond, Surrey, Whistler, Squamish, etc., while retaining their own councils for strictly local issues. The city state would have legal status as a separate entity, with its own taxation regime that would replace that of the provincial regime. With control over its own taxation it could reap significantly more than the present $8 per hundred we now receive. Control over schools and transportation and development would reside with the city. The city would control its own identity as an individual economic and cultural entity in relationship with the nation as a whole.

What, in your view, is a city state?

A city state is a self-governing regional, legal entity. There are other states you might compare. They include some of the tax havens like Jersey, Guernsey or Isle of Man and, until recently, Hong Kong was a city state. A present functioning city state is Singapore. And basically you have your own rules and constitution and ability to operate independently. I think in this idea, with Vancouver or any other city in Canada that might want to go with it, would be to maintain a relationship with the feds, but to cut out the layer of the province.

Where would this leave the rest of British Columbia? Vancouver is the urban heart of the province.

The other cities and towns remain in association with either the province, or form other similar associations and alliances, again dealing directly with the federal government for federal and national issues, as would Vancouver.

What do you say to people who say this might not be worth the effort and the status quo is comfortable enough that this seems a little bit way out?

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It is way out. It's an idea that is 25 years out, but it's happening anyway. What we're seeing around the world is the collapse of functioning national leaderships, and we're seeing much more alliances between nations and corporations. If that's going to happen, I would like to be the nation state that's dealing with the corporation rather than have somebody else.

We can't even get a regional police force in this region. How could we get a regional government leading to a city state?

I think you do it step by step. You have to introduce the concept, and have people test it and roll it out. I think it's about breaking it down to truly representative government.

What about your own history in Vancouver feeds this idea?

I have lived in Vancouver forever. I am from here. I have seen the city sort of grow up as I grew up. Vancouver has a tremendous amount of promise and is really attractive to a lot of people We are a separate and different spot. Vancouver has a certain flavour to it that has never been built upon. To do that, you need the leadership that says, 'Turn our back on Ottawa and Victoria and just look inward for a while and develop Vancouver.' "

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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