For nearly a decade Capital Regional District (CRD) Electoral Area Directors from Salt Spring Island, the Southern Gulf Islands and Juan de Fuca have been advocating for a change in their designation from urban to rural.
There is no doubt that these unincorporated communities are rural, however because they are members of the CRD they are deemed urban. As a result they are not able to apply for important government supports and grant programs designed for rural communities.
The CRD Board has written the province several letters advocating for a change to the designation. I have also written letters, met with Ministers, and raised the issue in budget estimates.
All along the provincial government has agreed that Gulf Islands communities in Saanich North and the Islands are rural. They told us that the only way they could change the designation was to have the three Electoral Areas added to the definition of the Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET). For the past three years they have been consulting the ICET.
I met with Ministry staff following my questions to former Minister Michelle Mungall this summer. They told me they were working on resolving this issue and that something would happen in the Fall.
Well, the BC NDP finally made the change. On September 20, 2020, the eve of the snap election, they issued Order in Council 533. Even though all the advocacy from my office and the CRD included all three Electoral Areas, the change was not afforded to all the communities. Only the communities in Premier John Horgan's riding (Juan de Fuca) benefited from the Order!
So why does it matter? It is actually a big deal. As it stands right now the Southern Gulf Islands and Salt Spring Island will be unfairly limited from accessing important COVID-19 recovery funds. It is a particularly egregious omission considering the reality that the tourist economy of the Gulf Islands has been devastated and now access to funding to diversify the economy has been limited.
To be clear all the other Gulf Island communities have access to the funding because they are part of other regional districts. Only the CRD and Metro Vancouver regional districts are deemed urban.
The new Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation is Hon. Ravi Kahlon. Just a few minutes after he was appointed to the role, I sent him a letter highlighting this situation and asked him to address it as soon as possible. I heard nothing.
So, in Question Period this week I asked Minister Kahlon if he had rectified this unnecessary injustice. You can see our exchange in this video.
Frankly, there is no good reason to exclude the Southern Gulf Islands and Salt Spring Island from this designation change. I hope this was an innocent oversight and not a deliberate act.
I will continue to advocate strongly for the provincial government to do their job and provide equitable access to a just economic recovery for all communities. However, I need your help! Please send Minister Kahlon an email to JTT.Minister@gov.bc.ca and copy my office at Adam.Olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca to urge him to do the right thing, and fix this situation immediately.