By Sam Van Schie – Nelson Star

Published: December 02, 2009 6:00 PM
Updated: December 03, 2009 1:40 PM

If people in Nelson want money spent in the community that stays in the community, one way to guarantee it does is by creating a local currency.

On Dec. 14, Bill McNally, a local lawyer and former chair of the EcoSociety, and Bradley Roulston, a certified financial planner working for the Nelson and District Credit Union, will host a community forum to discuss the potential for creating a local currency in Nelson. The duo say they’re not hosting the event on behalf of any organization, but rather because it’s something they’ve heard discussed by various people around Nelson and they want to bring those people together to share their ideas. “Community-based projects work best when they are born out of the community who use it,” Roulston explained. “This isn’t something we want to force on anybody, but there seems to be a growing interest. If people want it, I’d like to see it happen.”

Both McNally and Roulston have a wealth of knowledge on currency and how it can work. They can each rattle off a number of examples of where local currency has succeeded: From small towns such as Salt Spring Island to urban centres such as Calgary. They say there are more than 2,500 local currencies around the world. In their forum the two will discuss the history of money and the benefits and limitations of modern currency — both topics Roulston knows a lot about. They’ll also cover the legality of local currency, which is McNally’s area of expertise (basically, it’s most legal when you pay tax on it, he says).

They’ll also talk about the last local currency Nelsonites attempted to establish: The Barter bucks which were based on time, where people would trade 1/4 hour bills. That currency drifted through Nelson in 2004, started by Suzie Hamilton. Then they’ll talk about other models for currency, and what benefits are seen by having a local currency. In most places where the local currency is successful, the currency is the dollar for dollar equivalent of the national currency, with the difference being that it can’t be spent outside a certain community.

“If you had a Nelson dollar in your pocket, you’d be more likely to spend it in town, instead of going on the Internet to buy something with Canadian money,” McNally said. “The local money is worthless if you take it outside the community, so that’s a reason to spend it — and get rid of it — instead of holding onto it.” The result: A strong local economy.

But what’s the incentive to the buyer? McNally said in some communities businesses offer a small discount on purchases bought in the local currency. He also noted that the money becomes a source of community pride and a collectors item for visitors. “There are a lot of great reasons to do it,” he said. “But the first step is seeing if people are interested in trying it. That’s what the meeting is set up to establish.”

The community forum on local currency will take place Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. in the basement of the Nelson Library.


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