The next provincial general election in British Columbia is scheduled for May 9, 2017 and to help our community get to know the candidates who are running in our riding we’re sharing profiles of each candidate. All candidates have been invited to share a profile with the Salt Spring Exchange and we’ll be featuring profiles on each candidate as they become available. This profile is for Gary Holman, who is running to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Saanich North and the Islands with the BC NDP.
Here’s a little background on Gary:
I have two daughters, Amber and Eren, and a stepson, Owen. My wife Alicia and I consider ourselves so lucky to have been part of this vibrant Salt Spring Island community.
I am economist by background and worked for over 25 years on projects such as the Nisga’a Treaty and a provincial land-use planning process that doubled park land in BC, both proud legacies of BC NDP governments.
I became involved in the local and regional land trust movement in the 1990s, serving on the Boards of the Salt Spring Island Conservancy and The Land Conservancy of BC. I served as Chair of the Islands Trust’s Salt Spring Advisory Planning Committee, and co-founded the South and West Salt Spring Conservation Partnership, which was instrumental in protecting thousands of acres of land in Burgoyne Bay. I participated in several other successful land protection campaigns on Salt Spring, including Ford Lake and Manzanita Ridge, and served for several years on the Board of the Gulf Islands Alliance, an organization dedicated to supporting the mandate of the Islands Trust.
I was elected the Capital Regional District (CRD) Director for Salt Spring Island in 2002, serving for two terms. I established the Transportation Commission and the community bus system on Salt Spring in 2008. The Transportation Commission, in a unique partnership with Island Pathways, has also constructed a million dollar network of pathways in and around Ganges at a local taxpayer cost of $200,000.
As CRD Director, I established the Salt Spring Water Council to coordinate and support drinking water protection and conservation on the island. I opted Salt Spring into the CRD Housing Trust Fund, which has contributed over $1 million to local affordable housing projects. During my terms as CRD Director, we secured senior government funding for construction of the swimming pool and upgrades to a number of water and sewage treatment facilities, purchased the downtown site for the library, championed local taxpayer support for the arts and search and rescue.
In 2013, I became the first NDP MLA to be elected in Saanich North and the Islands.
What brought you to the area?
I was looking for land in the south Vancouver Island area and found a 10-acre agricultural parcel on Salt Spring in 1978. After struggling for two years trying to make a living with a young family, I left the island to work with a consulting company. In 1989, I established my own firm and returned to the island to make my home.
I quickly became involved in community issues on Salt Spring. I clearly remember attending my first blockade of a logging operation on Mt. Bruce with my daughters within months of moving to the island, and since then I’ve devoted my life to community and public service.
What is the one thing you would tell someone who has not visited the island?
Ruckle Park, created by the Dave Barrett NDP government in the 1970s, is a must see. It might also surprise visitors that they don't need their car to tour Salt Spring. The community bus now serves Ruckle in the summer and is a great way to see the rest of the island and meet its residents, the most engaged, empowered citizens in BC.
What island thing would you change by magic?
I would shift development out of our drinking watersheds.
Which elected position are you seeking?
I am running for re-election as MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.
Why should Salt Springers vote for you?
As an economist, conservationist, community activist and locally elected official, I’ve spent over 25 years advocating for the public interest on Salt Spring and in the Capital Region. That background has been invaluable at the provincial level, and I now have four years of experience that can be applied immediately, with no learning curve, as we work together to build sustainable local economies and communities while tackling the most pressing issue of our time, climate change.
Over four years as MLA, I worked hard with islanders on issues that matter to them. I prefer to work collaboratively, and I’ve done so, even with the other provincial candidates, but my record demonstrates I will do what is necessary to defend the public interest in this constituency. It was an honour to collaborate with Coast Salish First Nations, other elected officials, and community activists to protect Grace Islet, and I’m now working on a similar effort for Owl Island. My background in local government on Salt Spring was helpful in securing CRD funding to ensure that the recycling depots here and other Southern Gulf Islands were able to stay open despite inadequate provincial funding.
With support from BC NDP Leader John Horgan, I’ve publicly opposed the Steelhead LNG proposal in the Saanich Inlet and the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project. I continue to advocate for the protection of our southern resident Orca and for establishment of a National Marine Conservation Area co-managed by Coast Salish First Nations, also supported by the Greater Victoria and BC Chambers of Commerce.
I joined with activists to protect the integrity of the Agricultural Land Reserve in the face of actions to weaken it by the Christy Clark government. As Deputy Spokesperson for Ferries, I’ve fought unfair increases in ferry fares and advocated for construction of ferries in BC to keep the jobs and incomes flowing intp our communities.
Over the past four years, I’ve worked hard on a number of issues that haven’t received much public attention, including ferry scheduling in the Southern Gulf Islands; the malfunctioning private sewage treatment system on Channel Ridge; the long awaited liquor license for the Mercantile store in Fulford; repairs and line painting for our roads; speeding on Cusheon Lake Road; the Beddis road “speed bumps;” provision of sex assault kits at Lady Minto; and alternative water supplies for affordable housing within the North Salt Spring Water District, to name a few.
As the Official Opposition spokesperson for Democratic Reform, I’ve led the BC NDP commitments to ban big money from politics and to pass other laws to make elections fairer and the legislature more effective and accountable. We will also give BC voters an historic opportunity to bring in a fairer, proportional representation voting system. John Horgan has agreed to a referendum approval threshold of 50 per cent plus 1, giving us the best chance the province has ever had to change to a fair voting system where every vote counts in provincial elections.
As Deputy Spokesperson for Ferries and Environment, I’m also very proud of our platform commitments to deal with ferry fares and restore BC Ferries as our marine highway; to put integrity and science back into our environmental assessment process; restore independent regulatory authority over BC Hydro and stop Site C; and to implement a climate action plan that is commended by organizations such as the Pembina Institute.
The BC NDP will invest billions on public transit, green infrastructure, energy conservation retrofits, and affordable housing. We will do away with MSP premiums; phase in $10/day childcare and a $15/hr minimum wage; increase doctors and nurses throughout BC and improve home and residential care for seniors. We will make proper funding for our schools and education system a priority again. Our platform commitments will be fully costed and funded, for example by rescinding BC Liberal tax giveaways to the top 2 per centincome earners and large corporate donors, province-wide property tax surcharges for non-resident owners, and trimming administrative and management costs in our Crown corporations.
I have not worked alone for the past four years, and I am thankful for the efforts and dedication of the people around me. I will be forever grateful to Debra Hartung, a consummate professional who worked with Premiers and was so important to the success of our constituency office. Deb tragically passed away a few months after retiring, and I am dedicating my 2017 campaign to her.
Is there an interview question we should have asked you?
Do we need to change the Christy Clark government in BC?
How would you have answered your question?
We absolutely must defeat Christy Clark’s government. I’ve demonstrated I will stand up for Salt Spring and this constituency. I believe I have the best understanding of issues, governance and potential of this remarkable place, as well as a proven track record of getting things done. But I don’t want to spend the next four years fighting a Christy Clark government with a corporate-backed agenda that has been — and could be for four more years — so destructive to our shared communities and so blind to the environmental risks of its energy and other industrial projects.
I believe that the BC NDP platform — with its focus on making life more affordable, restoring services and integrity to governance, creating a sustainable, locally based economy, and taking real action on climate change — will transform BC politics, economy and society. These fundamental changes require more than the advocacy of one or two MLAs. The only way real, progressive change can happen is to elect an NDP government led by John Horgan. That starts with working together to re-elect an NDP member of the legislature in Saanich North and the Islands.