The 2022 General Local Elections are on October 15, 2022. Election profiles on the Salt Spring Exchange feature candidates who are running for local office. These short interviews are structured so that we can quickly and easily learn more about each of the candidates and a bit more about why we might consider voting for them. All candidates have been invited to participate.
This profile is from Gary Gagné who is running as a candidate for Islands Trust Trustee.
Tell us a bit about your background?
During my decades as a resident of SSI, I have volunteered for Transition SS, Island Pathways, Cycling SS, Partners Creating Pathways, TSSEC, Green Islands, Ambulance Service, and have also spent several years on the frontlines protecting Ancient Forests, an officer on Greenpeace ships, and support staff for spiritual organizations. Currently serving as Vice-Chair of NSSWD and briefly as Acting Chair, I have four years experience as a trustee. In that capacity I serve as the NSSWD representative on the SSI Housing Council, and was very involved with the Climate Action Plan 2.0 update and its ongoing implementation in the Maxwell watershed. Boatbuilder, sailor, house builder (my 1st one in 1980 on SSI), single parent of two boys, I now live on a small scale off-grid organic farm with my wife of 25 years.
What brought you to the area?
As a lifelong sailor, I first discovered Salt Spring Island after building my first sailboat and learning to sail in 1972. After several years of offshore cruising across the Pacific Ocean, I returned to live on Salt Spring in 1978 and bought a five acre property on Byron Road with a very old orchard that I restored and on which built a super insulated house.
What one thing about Salt Spring would you tell someone who has never visited the island?
I would tell anyone not to move here. It is very expensive to buy a home now and there are almost no rental properties available. This situation is unlikely to change anytime soon as our water resources are over allocated and we need to curb development, especially larger empty houses. In the 1970's and 80's housing was not a problem. Land was affordable on a regular salary and rental homes quite available. Then we were "discovered" with full page stories appearing in the NEW YORK TIMES and elsewhere. It is still a very special place to live but we need to sit down and discuss how to keep it livable and environmentally healthy.
If you could change one thing about Salt Spring, what would you change?
I would bring in the Speculation and Vacancy Tax and shut down illegal STVR's, as Sechelt and Whistler are now doing. The Lady Minto Hospital Foundation did a study and found that over 500 former long term rental units have been converted to short term which is what is creating this shortage of housing. I would propose setting up a housing agency that would be self-sustaining for vetting landlords and tenants, helping to provide protection to both. Related to housing is the pertinence of continuing the Islands Trust now interrupted ground water studies, and fire mitigation efforts (housing is moot if we burn the place down!).
Which well known person, living or dead, do you think would be a good addition to the island?
I would not want to encourage any famous people to move to this island. We already have an incredible number of super talented people in every field and many famous ones as well. This only adds to our magnetic draw of more people.
What do you think the number one community issue on Salt Spring Island is right now?
The potential for catastrophic forest fire as our weather continues to change quite dramatically. We have a lot of work to be done bringing back a healthy forest ecology after too many years of poor forestry practices and wetland draining. This issue was found to be the number one fear of islanders in our public surveys while updating the Climate Action Plan. Some would contend that housing is the main community issue. I feel that this matter is being successfully addressed by numerous agencies. It is not nearly being resolved as fast as some would hope but it is a complex problem with many moving parts.
Which elected position are you seeking?
I am seeking to be elected as a trustee for Islands Trust.
Why should Salt Springers vote for you?
Folks should vote for me and Elissa Poole since we are both acutely aware of the many issues that have developed over the years on this island. We both have been here off and on since 1978! I have several years of governance experience with NSSWD and would bring more transparency, accessibility and inclusivity to Trust meetings. I want to get the Trust back on track in following it's mandate of "Preserve and Protect". I am confident that the housing issue can be resolved within that mandate with the appropriate and legal tools available.
Is there a really good interview question we should have asked you?
Are you out of your mind running for the Trust?
How would you have answered your question?
Yes! As Paul Simon sang "Still Crazy After All These Years"