I’m writing in response to John McPherson’s column in which he argues that Salt Spring will not get its fair share of infrastructure funding unless we incorporate. Mr. McPherson focuses on one particular source of funding – the Strategic Projects Fund (SPF) that is part of federal gas tax funding. He cites data for 2015 indicating that Salt Spring has only received $60,000 planning grant from the fund, but fails to mention that no other individual municipality in the CRD received SPF funding either, except for Saanich which also received a planning grant. All the other SPF funding within the CRD was for joint projects of regional significance involving several municipalities.
The article omitted a few other facts. Salt Spring has received millions in Community Works gas tax funding over the past decade, that has helped finance a number of water, pedestrian/cycling infrastructure projects on the island. Community Works funding, currently at roughly $400,000/yr, is directly allocated annually, on a per capita basis (i.e., requires no application). Salt Spring has also been successful in attracting several million dollars in federal-provincial infrastructure funding for a half dozen water districts that agreed to become CRD entities, as well as for sewage treatment upgrades.
Salt Spring has also received millions more in other grants and subsidies for a whole range of projects, including our award-winning transit system, the library, pool and affordable housing. In fact, when funding for land protection and upgrades to Lady Minto are included, Salt Spring has received about $60 million in grants and transfers from various levels of government since 2001. This is a record that any community of Salt Spring’s size, whether incorporated or not, would be envious.
Any discussion about the financial implications of governance for Salt Spring should include the fact that incorporation also comes with some significant financial burdens, such as assuming full responsibility for 265 km of poorly maintained roads. This liability that will only grow with climate change impacts on sea levels and extreme weather events, and should not be dismissed with the notion that “we’ll get a grant for that”.