2022 General Local Election Candidate Profile - Elissa Poole

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 Elissa Poole who is running as a candidate for Islands Trust Trustee.

Tell us a bit about your background?

I was a classical musician for most of my working life, and as all gig-workers know, one job’s often not enough. So I also wrote for the Globe and Mail and a few other magazines for 20 years, and I was a regular artist-in residence at a university in Australia in the late 80s early 90s—I attended my first conference on sea level rise there in 1987. In 2000 I decided to stay put and teach at the University of Victoria. Recently I’ve been working to conserve a beautiful forest and wetland in the south end of the island, which has introduced me to the intricacies of conservation and many amazing people who have made it their life’s work. All these activities have reinforced my feeling that almost everything is political, from orchestras to faculty meetings, and from neighbourhood projects to counselling a troubled student. I’ve learned to listen with respect, compromise when it’s the best option, and to keep the main objective in mind.

What brought you to the area?

My then-partner and I answered an ad to rent an old farmhouse at the end of Isabella Point Road: $700 for four months, money up front. Imagine that! The house was the original Lumley 1890 family home, and it belonged to Tom Bergerud, who was one of Canada’s top caribou biologists. Tom eventually made it possible for me to buy my own land. Editing his book on caribou—the bible for caribou biologists—was a real privilege.

What one thing about Salt Spring would you tell someone who has never visited the island?

Be careful not to fall in love with the island! But if you do, and you’re lucky enough to find a place to live, leave yourself open to discover what living here has to offer. As Bill Henderson sang at a recent Trust meeting: “Don’t change the island, let the island change you.”

If you could change one thing about Salt Spring, what would you change?

I would love to change the polarization—to lessen how divisive we become when an issue really matters to us. It gets in the way of finding common ground. And sometimes I wonder this: if a specific idea or approach creates an immediate and truly divisive response, should we not go back and reframe the approach to minimize the anger, the panic, the misinterpretations before these have time to fester.

Which well-known person, living or dead, do you think would be a good addition to the island?

I’m more attracted to expertise more than celebrity, and there’s incredible expertise on this island, in so many different fields—in water conservation, forest preservation, eco-construction, farming, social justice, the arts, and all the ins and outs of finding ways to finance collaborative and complex projects. But if I were to be selfish, I’d like to have birdsong expert Donald Kroodsma as a neighbour for those early morning walks in springtime. His research on how birds are adapting their songs in response to noise pollution is revelatory.

What do you think the number one community issue on Salt Spring Island is right now?

Water! It connects to everything. Water hook-ups for affordable housing units close to town. Water for healthy forests and wildlife (not forgetting the bees and other insects!). Rainy season water saved in tanks for island-wide, dry-season use.

Which elected position are you seeking?

Islands Trust Trustee

Why should Salt Springers vote for you?

We need a strong environmental conscience on the Trust again, trustees who will view decisions through an environmental lens without losing track of the other voices, who listen to both sides of a question while keeping the Trust mandate to preserve and protect—and collaborate—front and centre. Salt Spring has two committed candidates running with the environment as a priority. I'm one, Gary Gagné is the other. Vote for us both.

Is there a really good interview question we should have asked you?

YES: Do you think that human and environmental needs can be balanced?

How would you have answered your question?

Balance doesn’t mean one half environment, one half people. We’re not on opposing sides, we are part of the environment. And what we do now, in terms of the climate emergency, affects all of us, not just the island. We are privileged to be here, but it comes with an obligation to act in full recognition that what we do with our forests and natural habitats has an impact on the other side of the globe. Every forest saved, every stream protected, translates as lives saved somewhere and a legacy for our grandchildren.

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