The 42nd British Columbia general election is scheduled for Saturday, October 24, 2020. 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 Stephen Roberts, who is running to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Saanich North and the Islands with the Liberal Party.
About Stephen Roberts
I was born in Sidney and grew up on Salt Spring. After graduating University with a degree in Economics and Political Science, I worked in accounting, law and finance. I retired as a COO of the research division for a large international investment bank overseas and moved back home to Salt Spring where I now live with my partner and our fantastic dog Sidney. I've been involved in a number of community organizations on Saltspring and throughout the riding including being past chair of the Saltspring Hospice and Lady Minto Gulf Islands Hospital Foundation and secretary on the Mary Winspear Centre board.
What brought you to the area?
I grew up on Salt Spring and have always considered it home. My father worked at BC Ferries for much of his career and my mother was a nurse at Lady Minto. Returning here after my career overseas was the realization of a life-long dream. There's nowhere else I would rather be.
What one thing about Salt Spring would you tell someone who has never visited the island?
It's an incredibly diverse collection of people who care passionately about the environment, the arts and their community. So many of my neighbours are actively engaged in interesting projects to improve the world around them and there's never a lack of informed opinions! We have artists, scientists, academics, writers, and experts in most every field who make their home on Saltspring.
As a tiny example, back in 2016 I won the annual fall fair jam prize for my blackberry jam! That same prize has been won by the artist who won the academy award for set design for the film "Lincoln" and by the wife of a very famous recording artist who makes his home on the island.
It takes all kinds to make a community and Saltspring is truly blessed with an astounding array of talented and engaging residents.
If you could change one thing about Salt Spring, what would you change?
Figure out a better way to build more affordable homes on the island for everyone who needs them without negatively impacting our water resources and fabulous environment. Housing affordability affects everyone. Small businesses have trouble finding workers because their likely employees can't afford to live nearby. Seniors who want to age in the community they've call home for years have trouble finding affordable housing that fits their needs.
At the same time, we have to be conscious of the need to manage access to our fresh water supplies, ensure sufficient transportation options and protect the environment. It's a complicated puzzle that requires dedicated effort from all levels of government, community members and those in need of housing.
Which well known person, living or dead, do you think would be a good addition to the island?
What do you think the number one community issue on Salt Spring Island is right now?
Recent years have seen an increase in the number of islanders experiencing homelessness, often alongside mental health challenges or substance use disorders. The perception of safety for many on the islands has degraded as a result. As MLA, I will work with local leaders, health professionals and the RCMP to ensure that we find solutions that will result in homes for those that want them, complete with desired support services. At the same time, I will bolster efforts to ensure that police have the necessary tools to help regain our sense of community safety.
Which elected position are you seeking?
Member of the Legislative Assembly for Saanich North and the Islands
Why should Salt Springers vote for you?
I was drawn to public service in part by the example of my parents. My mother was a nurse at Lady Minto and my dad worked on the ferries while I was growing up; they taught me how important it is to give back and support one another. I decided to run in this unnecessary pandemic election because my riding needs a voice as we grapple with the ongoing economic and social impacts of the virus. I know the riding and the issues we are facing and am passionate about my community. It would be an honour to serve as MLA.
Is there a really good interview question we should have asked you?
How can we help the many seniors on Saltspring better enjoy their retirement years?
How would you have answered your question?
One of the things we all deal with living on the island is the challenge of getting around our hilly roads as we go about our daily lives. While it feels sometimes quite crowded, especially during the high tourist season, housing on Saltspring is quite dispersed and it's tough to get around without a vehicle. One of the ways to increase mobility for seniors would be to ensure new transportation options, including ride-sharing services, for islanders. We should also continue to work to increase the availability of health-care services on the island.