Marc Doll explains what ‘empowering community’ would mean in Area C

Marc Doll was a high school social studies teacher, a community specialist realtor and the president of a community association back in Calgary. Doll, his wife Jen and two daughters left that life behind in 2016. Now he is a regenerative farmer and volunteer firefighter on Quadra Island. He hopes to be elected Regional Director for Area C on Saturday, October 15, 2022.  The tagline on his websites is ‘empower community’ and in the first of a series of articles exploring his positions, Cortes Currents asked what this means.  

Doll was President of the Marda Loop Communities Association, which governs a community of 20,000 people in Calgary, for 5 years. 

“That’s really the experience that I’m probably using and drawing on the most for  this campaign. We took an institution that had become derelict, had a very uninvolved board and this multimillion dollar building was falling behind in its repairs and a group of us got together and brought a new vision to it,” he said. 

“What’s amazing is when you get people behind a vision, and you get the people in a neighborhood that want to be connected and have the drive to make things better, it just absolutely is impressive what can be done. So in this particular instance, we took something that had just become a rental hall and turned it into a community hub where we rejuvenated an outdoor pool, got millions of dollars in grants for infrastructure renewal. We transformed a board that was hardly populated into a completely full board, where every position had people volunteering for it. We started a farmer’s market,  the list goes on and on and on.

This is a model of the kind of change he’d like to see brought to Area C, especially to Quadra Island. Read Island is already further down that road, thanks to the Surge Narrows Community Association (SNCA). 

“They are getting things done that are absolutely mind blowing. They just received a $2 million grant for a foreshore rejuvenation project. They completed a gorgeous pavilion for community events. That’s the type of thing that can get done when people  are working together,” said Doll.

“Quadra is a community in and of itself, but doesn’t operate so much as a community. It operates as a bunch of really motivated, organized people in silos. From a community development perspective, we need to bring them together.”

Doll gave the example of a $12,000 food security grant that he, the Quadra Garden Club, and Quadra ICAN worked on. 

“We are realizing that there was a hundred thousand dollars that we didn’t even know about, because we didn’t have the organizational capacity to keep our head up to go looking for that food security and climate change type of grant.”

“There is also folded into that, a political narrative that the Strathcona Regional District [SRD] is what I call the absolute worst way of organizing around community.”

He said the 5 municipalities, 4 electoral areas and single treaty First Nation of the SRD are ‘almost in competItion,’ rather than working together.

Worse, when it comes to budgetary matters, Campbell River is ‘governing Quadra, Cortes and all the other rural areas and on Vancouver Island.’  

Map of Area C – Courtesy SRD website

“There are 35 votes at the table. Most of which are held in the hands of the directors from Campbell River or the counsellors from Campbell River who are sitting on the regional district committees,” explained Doll.

“That means our islands don’t really have the ability to act as individual communities. We are enveloped by a larger urban municipality. A lot of the decisions that we’re looking at are going to be largely made by the 20 votes that come out of Campbell River instead of the one vote from Cortes, or the two votes from Area C (Quadra Island and the other Discovery Islands).”

He added, “We need to have an organization where Quadra Islanders can come together and focus on the vision for our future. How do we want to deal with development? How do we want our voice to be heard at the provincial table, and at the SRD table?”

Up until now, there has been a single voice representing Quadra and he sat on a committee dominated by an urban centre.

Doll said there are a number of functioning models that show how the people of Quadra Island could organize itself.

“The idea that I’m putting forward is that, because this committee is going to have a voice that’s going to have some type of influence and power over the regional director position itself, it shouldn’t be up to the Regional Director [myself if I get elected] to stipulate what this should look like, or who should be on the committee.”

If there was some kind of Quadra community committee, it would be difficult for the Regional Director to ignore their wishes. 

“The Regional Director needs to be responsive to the people of Quadra and they need a way of organizing and letting the community voice be heard and formulated,” he said.

Marc Doll at the Seaweed Cafe on Read Island – submitted photo

Doll suggested that the process the SRD is using to draw up an Intergrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) for Area C is flawed. Membership in the ad hoc task force that will do most of the work is chosen by a principle of who will show up rather, than who best represents the community’s best interests and has ‘understood the voice that we’re putting forward.’ 

He is using this campaign to initiate conversations with the people who have the skills, abilities, and desire to create a political entity representing Quadra Island.

“There’s any number of examples on Quadra of committees that have started with very similar  processes. You get people together, you agree on a process. You study, you come back and then next step is  development of your mission, vision plan values. We have the Quadra Foundation, we have ICAN,” said Doll. 

Marc Doll and his wife Jen Banks-Doll – Photo courtesy Empower Community website

He added that prior to coming to Quadra Island, his wife Jen was a community development officer for the Government of Alberta

“I’m going to be drawing a lot on my wife’s experience to help guide this process.”

Top image credit: Marc Doll holding one of the kids at Foot Forward Forest Farm, a 40 acre farm that his family are stewards of.

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