ASK Salt Spring with MLA Adam Olsen, CRD’s Gary Holman, and Trustee Laura Patrick on the new firehall vote, LLC and more

Twenty-two gathered to welcome MLA Adam Olsen, CRD’s Gary Holman, and Laura Patrick (one of our two local Trustees for the Islands Trust) to this ASK Salt Spring Zoom gathering. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, each of our special guests took a few moments to share what was on their minds on this lovely spring day. Laura acknowledged that all of our elected officials work together to address the complex issues that face our community.

Adding his agreement, Adam spoke of his hope for the opportunity to soon begin meeting together in-person in local town halls with our federal, provincial, and local representatives. He also spoke briefly about this week’s announcement of the plan to spend almost $800 million to rebuild the BC Museum and his unique perspective on museums.

Gary spoke of the two decisions Salt Springers will make this year: Will we approve the firehall referendum on June 30 and/or the Local Community Commission on October 15?

Concerning the firehall, he strongly supports a “Yes” vote, convinced that now is the time to approve this long-delayed emergency building. He believes that our community needs to prepare itself for the disasters that, with climate change, are sure to become more frequent.

Reminding us that an even bigger building was estimated at $6 million a decade ago, Gary believes that the $13.7 million price tag will only increase if voters do not approve borrowing to fund this building now. While the new firehall is estimated to cost $13.7 million, it will only require a loan of $9.7 million due to Fire District reserves and the $1 million CRD gas tax contribution. We learned that this $9.7 million loan can be funded within the current Fire District requisition, requiring no increase in our taxes.

This firehall decision will be made by a mail-in vote of property owners on June 30, 2022, a method Fire Trustees believe will increase voter turnout. While it is likely that they are correct, Gary also told us about a number of ballots that were thrown out in the recent North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD) Trustee election. He asked us to pass the word that each ballot requires a witness and that following instructions about marking the ballot is important to ensure that it will not be disqualified.

Adam added his agreement to Gary’s hope that the firehall referendum will be approved, sharing his experience of a decade-long discussion of the Central Saanich firehall during which it became more and more expensive. He also reminded us of our windstorm of Christmas 2018 when our first responders had to continue to fulfill their responsibilities with only a makeshift generator.

As one of the largest Improvement Districts in British Columbia, a participant questioned the Fire District’s governance model which allows it to raise taxes without voter approval, citing an increase from $750,000 in 2013 to today’s annual $5 million budget. Unsupported by the province, many Improvement Districts have been enticed to join local governments, an option not yet pursued by either the Fire Distinct or our other large Improvement District, NSSWD. Despite concerns about these Improvement Districts, Gary asked us to set aside this governance discussion until the new firehall has been approved on June 30, 2022.

Gary also spoke about the proposal for a Local Community Commission (LCC) that is expected to be on the October 15, 2022 ballot. One of his campaign promises, he believes that our community (of approximately 11,000) deserves more than a single elected official - the Electoral Director - to represent its CRD service needs. He cited his decision to support the building of the firehall (if the referendum is approved) with $1 million of our Community Works (“gas tax”) funds. He believes that this was the right decision, but with an LCC, comprised of the Electoral Director as well as four-to-six Commissioners elected at large by Salt Spring voters, this decision would have been made collaboratively and transparently in open public meetings rather than by Gary alone.

We learned that the draft LCC Discussion Paper is now available online at both the Driftwood and Exchange as well as copies in the CRD offices and the Library.

Gary has appointed an LCC Advisory Committee, composed of the Chairs (or delegate) of each of the four island-wide Commissions: PARC, Liquid Waste, Economic Sustainability, and Transportation. The two Improvement Districts, Fire and NSSWD, are also represented as well as two members from our community, Darryl Martin and retired CRD Manager, Kees Ruurs.

The second meeting of this LCC Advisory Committee will be Thursday, May 26, 1-3, via Zoom. Community member are welcome to join this meeting.

Reminding us that this LCC will only address CRD issues - not Islands Trust, roads and policing issues - Gary believes that island-wide CRD services can be consolidated under an elected LCC, freeing staff time and increasing their capacity. We also learned that there would likely be a slight requisition increase, largely for a modest stipend for those elected as Local Community Commissioners.

On October 15, voters will be asked to approve CRD bylaws that establish and define the mandate and authority of an LCC. These bylaws would need to be given first, second, and third readings at the July 13, 2022 CRD Board Meeting. When asked when these bylaws would be ready to share with the community, Gary responded that CRD staff are working on them and will clarify when they will be available for public review. At the latest, they will be available just prior to the July 13 CRD Board meeting.

There is some debate about the importance of the initial powers delegated to the LCC. While one consistent LCC supporter told us that a sufficient number of delegated powers was essential for his continued support, Gary reminded us that getting approval of this LCC was critical; powers could be increased as the LCC succeeds. (NOTE: There are other LCCs in the province, but they are all in very small communities. While still adhering to provincial legislation, this proposed Salt Spring LCC is expected to be very different from existing ones, exploring new local governance territory.)

One participant was disappointed that the Driftwood headline heralding a new governance model for Salt Spring was not announcing something more radical. Gary continues to believe that the proposed LCC is an important step toward broader representation, greater decision-making transparency, and consolidation of CRD silos without the need for legislative change or incorporation which has been repeatedly rejected by voters.

Switching gears, a participant asked for an update about the reported closing of the Community Services Shelter. It was confirmed that BC Housing will fund the shelter until March 2023. While there are plans to provide a few Bridge to Housing beds in the new Supportive Housing facility on Drake Road, there is local agreement that these few beds will not address the needs currently being met by our shelter.

The good news is that the shelter funding will continue to welcome those in need throughout next winter. More good news is that this funding will continue approximately six months after the expected completion of the Supportive Housing project. This overlap between the completion of this project and proposed shelter closing will allow us to document the expected continuing need for our shelter. Adam is hosting a meeting of community and nonprofit leaders from Salt Spring to discuss our community shelter needs and coordinate with BC Housing to advocate for the appropriate level of support for those who use our shelter. Stay tuned. . . .

Switching gears to transportation, a participant expressed what she called a rant about the excessive traffic on Salt Spring with too many cars (documented at over 10,000 many years ago), too many single passenger trips, too few bus riders, too high speed limits, and too few safe options for cyclists and pedestrians. Asking who is going to address this fast-growing problem, Adam said that our roads belong to the province and he will continue working with the Ministry, CRD Transportation Committee, and community advocates to address traffic related issues. Last week, the BC GreenCaucus proposed free transit as an important step to reduce vehicle use and create more equitable provincial supports to curb the rising cost of transportation.

Adam is also supportive of traffic calming on the Gulf Islands, reminding us that reduced speeds are not only safer for cars, cyclists, and pedestrians but reduced speeds also keep our roads from deteriorating so quickly.

Gary spoke of the work of the Transportation Commission, including the recent completion of two major pathways, in Ganges - the North Ganges Transportation Plan (which he initiated in 2008), as well as a major pathway along Lower Ganges from Booth Canal to Central, connecting much of our village with the already-existing projects spearheaded by Island Pathways.

While there is some transit expansion and more in the planning stages, Gary reminded us that COVID had seriously reduced ridership but that our bus system is back to 75% of pre-COVID levels. In Gary’s opinion, one of the biggest challenges we face increasing our transit use as well as providing active transportation options is our widely-dispersed settlement patterns, requiring a whopping 265 kilometres of roads.

Before the conversation shifted, Adam reminded us that it is well documented that the investment in transit, bike lanes, and pedestrian pathways is required to generate usage, the build it and they will come principle.

A participant then asked Adam about the just-announced changes in oil company royalties. While, in Adam’s opinion, the province is selling the news that the BC government will no longer subsidize fossil fuel extraction by drilling and fracking as good news, he is deeply concerned that the new scheme will result in provincial encouragement of more drilling due to an increase in royalties.

As 1:00 quickly approached, Laura encouraged us to support the proposed Islands Trust bylaw addressing accessory dwelling units as a form of rental housing. This bylaw is about islanders housing islanders. A primary residence along with one accessory dwelling is considered one single dwelling unit in many jurisdictions. Laura stated that we need more housing options now to address our housing equity and workforce shortage challenges.

While this bylaw will not increase the densities of properties, a participant pointed out that it will legally allow more families to reside on a residential lot. When concerns were raised about allowing even more to live in our already-dispersed settlement patterns rather than focusing on village densification, Laura reminded us that we were in an housing emergency and that emergency measures are needed.

As we prepared to say goodbye for this week, Adam spoke briefly about the decay of our universal primary health care system. In Adam’s opinion, we need to revise our doctors’ outdated Fee for Services system. He shared a few examples presented at a rally hosted at the legislature by BC Health Care Matters on Thursday May 19th: Currently, the system pays doctors a fee of approximately $30 for a “service” which is a 15 minute visit with a patient. There are no other billing codes that recognize the extra time required for complex care patients or paperwork. In Adam’s opinion, Minister Adrian Dix could alleviate some of the tension quickly by simply creating new billing codes. He sees this as a way to begin rewarding quality over quantity.

We had some good news about the option of Primary Care Networks (PCN), a system consisting of a team of healthcare professionals addressing the full range of our medical needs, when Gary told us that an application for a PCN on Salt Spring had recently been submitted.

Adam closed with his acknowledgement of the good work of between 750-1,000 - including many Salt Springers - who participated in the recent health care rally in Victoria, as reported in the Times Colonist.

Already slightly after 1:00, we gratefully thanked Laura, Gary, and Adam for their hard work, vision, tenacity, and genuine concern for the issues that mean the most to us. (Thanks Adam, Laura, and Gary!)

Please join us on Zoom 11-1 May 27 to welcome Gary Holman and the folks who know a great deal about what is possible if Salt Springers voted to establish a Local Community Commission.

Given COVID concerns, we will be gathering virtually via Zoom.

What would you like to learn?
Is an LCC simply a poor substitute for incorporation?
If not, what can it offer that may address some governance issues on Salt Spring?
Would an LCC impact Islands Trust? If yes, how?
How would an LCC work?
Can you define its functions?
Anything new almost always costs taxpayers. How can an LCC be as revenue-neutral as possible?
What is the proposed process for further exploring an LCC?
And. . . .?

See you Friday, May 27, 11-1 on Zoom to welcome some Salt Springers who know a whole lot about Local Community Commissions - but who also have a lot to learn from this conversation with you!

Any question, anytime: Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer. We love your receipts! Remember: #15 Our Partners... Our rent - reduced through the generosity of our Library - is being paid for by Island Savings’ Simple Generosity grant. Cookie and coffee fixings are the result of the generosity of Country Grocer. What a team!

Gayle Baker
ASK Salt Spring

May 25, 2022 12:51 PM

  • An LCC is an old idea...tossed about for decades. The province doesn't recommend them anymore and barely has info about them on their website and said (during incorp study) it was not appropriate for a community of our size.

    Gary's idea is one formulated in the NO to Incorporation mindset. He fails to update his thinking . He and this so called "government info dispensing group" do not care that the Trust just got a bad report card...on top of the the previous 2007 bad report card which was not acted on and so their problems just grew and grew to end up with words like "what is the Trust? what does it want to be when it grows up? outside their purview, leaderless, inefficient, unaccountable" goes on and on.

    So why are we discussing governance options without discussing this new and vital information? And why has ASK not addressed this governance report for the IT?

    The present NDP majority government is the perfect government to restructure the IT, the time is ripe, the report outlines its extensive failure and inability to sort out their woes internally.

    We could ask for Island Municipalities with the province taking care of all roads that end at a ferry terminal. We could create an IT Police force with mental health officers...the possibilities are endless.

    Gary and his cadre of NO NO NO folks want to keep the "silo" government alive and well and it is simply wasteful and exacerbates all of our problems. Silo government is class warfare, which is alive and well on Salt Spring....the NO to everything folks have stacked the deck, ensuring improvement (fire) and water districts are property owner ONLY votes and of course...they have the money to put behind their NO campaigns.

    And finally, this missive of info from ASK fails to mention the unilateral decision that the taxpayers take on the old firehall and pay for it...rather than selling it to allow for some "free market innovation" into the heart of Ganges. Selling the property puts money into Fire Dept. coffers and reduces the tax burden even further. Why is this info missing? Why are we not talking about it?

  • Paula Palyga says:

    Great job with the meeting minutes Gayle. Well done.