ASK Salt Spring Answers from Emcon and the Chamber of Commerce

Emcon Managers, Andrew Gaetz and Lisa Herschmiller

What effect has this pandemic had on your operations?

We have had to adjust in a variety of ways including:

  • additional sanitization measures,
  • staggering shifts,
  • minimizing access to our shops and offices,
  • adjusting work practices to meet social distancing guidelines,
  • numerous training exercises and education on personal hygiene, and
  • an increased number of pick ups in our larger yards to facilitate social distancing.

We worried when a few staff caught colds and had to follow the protocol for a 14-day quarantine, but we are very proud to report that we are still running a 24/7 operation, and our staff is healthy and working. Despite the good health of our crew, some of these emergency measures have delayed our responses, so we appreciate your patience in these challenging times.

When do you think that our roads will be swept and ready for lines to be painted?

We now have a sweeper on Salt Spring! Its arrival was delayed due to some mechanical problems, but all the necessary repairs have been made, and it has arrived. So, let the sweeping begin!

The line painters are currently in Duncan and are painting side roads before beginning on the Trans Canada Highway. While we do not know when the painters will arrive, we are ready for them.

How is your project of partnering with local volunteers to combat our prolific invasives progressing?

Emcon’s team has been working on cutting gorse in areas where it is not necessary to truck it away this year. To date, our crews have spent 21 hours attacking invasives on Salt Spring. We have also been collaborating with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) area manager and local volunteers to develop a plan for the future. Stay tuned for more information as this plan nears implementation.

Please tell us more about decisions determining when Emcon takes on a paving project and when it is done by MoTI.

In general, Emcon patches and performs smaller paving repairs, and MoTI is responsible for resurfacing and roads needing rehabilitation.Before paving, all of the following factors must be considered, whether it is our program or one that is directly managed by MoTI.

  • Road class, volume of traffic, and priority of route.
  • Severity, type of defect(s), and risk to public safety.
  • Root cause of road failure: Is is age, or is something accelerating its degradation?

As pavement is very expensive, it is important that we address the underlying problems to ensure a life span that is as long as possible. Despite this separation of responsibilities, Emcon and MoTI work as a team, sharing input to achieve the best value for each dollar.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Jessica Harkema

What is the Chamber doing to support our local businesses during this crisis?

The Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit membership-based organization that supports our Island’s business environment and its members but does not have the capacity to provide direct funds to businesses.

Given these unprecedented times, the Chamber is serving all businesses to navigate this new environment. As a leader in the Farm and Business Response and Recovery Task Force, the Chamber is considering allocation of personnel and funding to address long term economic resiliency on Salt Spring Island. This task force is currently evaluating survey results that will be the basis for moving forward to plan recovery and response.

Other activities include:

1. Since the beginning of this crisis, the Chamber has been actively advocating not only on behalf of our business members but for all business on Salt Spring Island and the Southern Gulf Islands. The Chamber has been consistently advocating for our business owners who are not being helped with the current subsidy structure as well as seeking support for our unique - and sometimes seasonal - island businesses and industries. The results of this advocacy have been incredible and have included a Facebook Live Talk with Adam Olsen. We also had the opportunity to share stories illustrating the need for support for our small businesses with Elizabeth May which were used to inform her advocacy with the finance minister. Another focus of the Chamber’s advocacy has been the Commercial Rent Subsidy, which was announced Friday April 24th.

2. The Salt Spring Business Owner Forum - COVID-19 provides easy-to-access and consistently-updated information to business owners. In addition to information, it provides a platform for business owners to communicate with one another and share their experiences accessing Federal and Provincial benefits.

3. Prior to the crisis, the Chamber was developing a Business Directory for its members. Work on this directory has been accelerated and will soon be completed. It will be accessible to all businesses during our recovery from this crisis.

4. The Chamber is also hosting Zoom networking opportunities every few weeks

Some Islanders say that Ganges is dilapidated and uninviting. What, if anything, does the Chamber believe should be done to make Ganges a more welcoming village?

This is a long standing question that the Chamber has focused upon in the past. One conclusion is that it depends upon the willingness of landlords and business owners to upgrade their property as well as the support of local and provincial governments. One step would be to have more residents living in Ganges to add needed vibrancy. Any significant upgrades would require commitment by many stakeholders as well as significant investment, extensive consultation, and a breakthrough on some of Ganges’ water issues.

What have you learned from this crisis that will better prepare our local businesses to address future challenges?

We will be learning from this for years to come. We have learned that our whole community, not just businesses, needs to work together to build resiliency. We are already seeing some incredible innovation and entrepreneurship from our local business community. For example, those who built online stores will likely maintain them. Many businesses will change how they function; Some hospitality businesses have already restructured their business model to ensure that they can cover their bills during crises.

The pandemic has reaffirmed the conclusion that we must focus on business resiliency and reducing the severity of our boom and bust seasonal economy This a unique opportunity to change what we call “normal,” evaluate what didn’t work, make changes, and explore new opportunities.

What’s Next for ASK Salt Spring?

Salt Springers will gather this Friday, May 1, from 11-1 on Zoom. Adam Olsen will be our special guest. Everyone is welcome. Simply click:

Questions are now being gathered for Gary Holman. Please send them to by Tuesday, May 5 at 5:00 p.m.

April 30, 2020 7:25 AM

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