Thinking Like An Island

Every spring for the last 43 years I have followed the same routine. I turn under green manure crops, spread compost, prepare fields, and direct seed and transplant. The seeds and small plants that go into the ground are the product of months and sometimes years of propagation work. The compost is made throughout the prior season, and the complex crop rotation and field plans are the result of a winter of careful thinking and consideration. The soils are built and improved over decades. Before the first seed gets planted, many months and thousands of dollars have already been invested into a professional endeavour that requires decades to develop and perfect. This spring is different. I am going through all the same motions as I always have, but this time for the first time, I have no idea how the results of my labour, the food that will surely ripen, will make it into the homes and the bellies of all those on the island and beyond that we have supplied for the last 20 ye…
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MLA Adam Olsen: Wet’suwet’en Indigenous Leadership

This has been an incredibly difficult chapter for British Columbia – and for me personally as an Indigenous Member of the Legislative Assembly. From the exhilaration of being the first jurisdiction in Canada to pass the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into legislation, to the escalating situation in Wet’suwet’en territory, our path to reconciliation has been - and will continue to be - fraught with challenges. As I said when the Declaration received Royal Assent, none of this work is easy or simple. It will not be solved overnight. The tragic and dysfunctional relationship between Crown governments and Indigenous people in British Columbia is legally complex and has been evolving for more than 150 years. It is the legacy of Canada’s historic and ongoing colonialism. It shapes where and how we live, how decisions are made, how lands are stewarded, where power lies, and the purposes for which it is used. From the federal Indian Act to successive genera…
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Abandon Proposed Bylaw 512 - It Isn't Part of the Housing Solution

At the January 28th Public Hearing for Bylaw 512, several members of the public criticized the bylaw as ineffective at achieving its stated goal of increasing the supply of long-term, rental housing. Representatives from Salt Spring Solutions spoke-up in opposition to the current iteration of Bylaw 512. They believe the bylaw is too limited and onerous to make any real impact, and that Trust resources should be redirected to other housing work. They noted that the recommendations they had submitted to improve the effectiveness of Bylaw 512 in October 2019 had not been integrated. In fact, few of the housing solutions requested by a coalition of island groups that includes Salt Spring Solutions, the Chamber of Commerce, Transition Salt Spring and the Housing Council have been made it onto any of the Islands Trust actions plans or project lists. About 150 people rallied in front of the Islands Trust Office on November 22, 2019 in support of housing solutions and over 900 re…
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Islands Trust to Disallow B&B Use with Proposed Changes to Bylaw 512

The Islands Trust is proposing changes to Bylaw 512 that will impact specific properties on Salt Spring, but the changes will also have an impact  on all of us. What the bylaw 512 says: Adds the concept of a full-time rental cottage (2.1); Rezones around 400 properties that currently allow a seasonal cottage to now allow a full-time rental cottage (2.3); Disallows the use of any cottage for home based B&B (3.15.7): ” On lots where a full-time rental cottage is permitted, no seasonal or full-time rental cottage may be used as part of a bed-and-breakfast home-based business. “ What This Means: If you are affected by this Bylaw then when it is adopted you will lose the right to use a seasonal cottage as part of a home based B&B business. This is true even if you don’t yet have a cottage, and regardless of whether you want to provide long term rental accommodation. What You Can Do: If you are OK with the Trust arbitrarily changing your zoning to r…
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MLA Adam Olsen on the Recent Wet’suwet’en Swartz Bay Protest

This week I saw my riding grapple with mixed emotions to the protesters who blocked the Swartz Bay ferry terminal for two hours in what they said was an act of solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who are opposed to the Coastal Gas Link pipeline currently being constructed in their territory. Living in this vibrant democracy is not easy. We all recognize the constitutionally protected right to protest, but when these acts of democratic engagement impact our daily lives, it can be hard to stand behind those foundational principles. Things are often easier in theory than in practice. But nothing worth doing ever does come easy. The very freedoms and rights we enjoy today as Canadians have not come easily and protecting them today requires every one of us to remain diligent and engaged. While I must defend the right for people to peacefully demonstrate it is also important to publicly encourage people to use tactics that advance the interests that they are…
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Fulford Vortex Proposal In Focus

With regard to the proposed Vortex development at the site of the former Fulford Inn (17 commercial guest accommodation units, a restaurant, and associated facilities), the public should be aware that the Local Trust Committee, in granting a variance to decrease septic setback distances from Soule Creek and Fulford Harbour, did not heed the recommendation of Trust staff. The staff report states: “Staff do not support this variance request and consider it to be contrary to Land Use Bylaw and OCP provisions for water quality protection.” Here is the rationale: “Adjacent to a fish-bearing stream. Adjacent to a sensitive estuarine ecosystem. Projected to be subject to climate change-induced flooding. Presence of recorded archaeological site.” Trust bylaw regulations require a minimum setback of 30 metres – a safety margin based on scientific research. The variance now allows a setback of just 10 metres from Soule Creek and 26 metres from the harbour. The CRD’s Coastal Sea …
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The Personal is Political: A Critique of Bylaw 512

There was a time on Salt Spring Island, twenty years or so ago, when cottages were just that—cottages…with no “seasonal” qualifier. I don’t know when the seasonal restriction was imposed on Salt Spring Island cottages, or why. The six staff reports on the proposed bylaw 512 (a bylaw which would remove the “seasonal” qualifier from a handful of cottages in hopes of increasing the number of affordable rentals) that were written between 2017 and 2019—on our tax dime—do not address why the “seasonal” qualifier was added to cottages in the first place, or when. Perhaps it happened during the process of drafting the Official Community Plan in 2008—in any case, at some point in the last twenty years, our Local Trust Committee and planning staff decided that cottages should seasonally restricted, and that year-round cottage living be prohibited. As a relative newcomer, I still shake my head in disbelief at the maze of prohibitions that pass for local governance on this beautiful isl…
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Turf Field Still Best Option For Youth Sports on Salt Spring

If the recent decision by the school district to rescind their support for a turf field proposal put forward by the local soccer association feels familiar to the Brinkworthy athletic park rejection a few years ago, that's because it is.  Last time the “no” crowd was comprised of agricultural land advocates and complaints from neighboring property owners. This time the no’s came from some environmentalists and anti-plastic advocates.  In both cases the loser is ultimately youth and community sports groups and their proposals to upgrade our athletic fields and parks to modern standards.  It seems that while everyone has been objecting, no one has been listening. Our community sports infrastructure is woefully inadequate, especially when compared to our neighbouring communities.  We lack ball diamonds, enough quality soccer fields, and even a skating rink if you really wanted to dream big.  This is not a new problem, it’s a problem our community has grappled with for decades, …
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The Greatest Future We Can Possibly Imagine...?

The New Year affords us the opportunity to look a bit into the distance. Will we make a resolution, reflect on the year past, or set a goal for one year from now?  Is anyone looking farther into the future? We live in a world of quarterly reports, monthly rent or mortgage, hourly pay or paid biweekly, and parking by the minute. Time is money. Our reality is immediate. Climate change creates another pull to deal with the immediate. There is more certainty in the short time frame, but to neglect the longer view is to miss out. All great things are only possible inside a medium or long view. Things such as getting an education, building or buying a house, committing to a career, or having children are an expression of medium range thinking. Long range thinking is to think and plan beyond one’s lifetime in order to benefit one’s descendents, or the future of the human species. The future we create can be anything but frightening. It needs to be so great that we can’t wa…
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Housing Thoughts

We’ve known about and studied the affordable housing shortfall for at least 13 years and have made no headway, and perhaps gone backwards. As a response we now have an anarchic, subversive culture that thumbs their nose at regulations that don’t represent the will and needs of the population. Non-compliance has become the norm, and it is broadly believed that it is better to beg forgiveness than ask permission. We have a complaint driven, not vision driven policy paradigm Rhonan Heitzmann spoke about how we used to be a beacon for housing solutions. For example, rammed earth in Canada began on SSI.  Straw bale building in the early days was centered on SSI.  SSI milled its own timber, quarried its own building stone, used island sand and gravel for its concrete, and had the skilled tradesman to create remarkable projects.  SSI is no longer the beacon for permitted home building solutions for the rest of the country or the world. So, what would it take to become …
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Make Less Than $80K? Maybe You Can't Live Here

Every month that goes by, fewer and fewer homes for regular people are available on Salt Spring. Rentals continue to leave the market due to the dual pressures of high real estate prices (encouraging homeowners to sell), and tourism / Air bnbs (encouraging homeowners to rent short term rather than long). A few affordable housing projects are happening, sort of, though the one that recently broke ground took 24 years of planning. That's one housing unit a year. As for homes for sale, as this former Islands Trust trustee recently wrote, there are literally zero properties listed for sale today on Salt Spring that anyone making less than $80,000 a year could afford. There are reportedly hundreds of people commuting on the ferries each day (one sailing wait anyone?) while more and more middle and working class people and families are looking at the unthinkable: packing up their lives, in some cases after decades of investing in this community, and moving elsewhere. But it'…
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Video: Trouble in the Salish Sea

BC’s Southern Gulf Islands face a serious environmental threat. A major gap in government regulation and oversight is allowing giant international cargo ships to anchor as long as they want in the waters surrounding the protected Southern Gulf Islands including Cowichan Bay. Negative Impacts include: * Anchor chains scouring the ocean floor, destroying marine habitat * Diesel generators run 24/7 causing air, noise and light pollution * Acoustic Interference and collision risk to Resident Killer Whales * Risk of grounding or collisions causing catastrophic fuel spills But it doesn’t have to be this way. Local First Nations and coastal community groups are demanding Transport Canada put an end to this harmful spillover of commercial activity from the Port of Vancouver. A new 3 minute video explains the problem. Act now to help save the pristine waters around Salt Spring Island. https://youtu.be/cinoX2LmM8s Salt Spring's group Protect The Islands Sea has jo…
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Salt Spring Island Fire Protection District Member Compensation Disclosure

In recent weeks there have been extensive articles in the local news media regarding the Salt Spring Island Fire Protection District (SSIFPD).  To the degree that any of this has focused on budget and expenditure, it would seem logical that current fiscal information can be found on the SSIFPD website.  As of this writing, and as I reviewed with the Trustees at the September 16 business meeting, budget/expenditure information available to ratepayers is far from current.  The most recent budget posted to the website isn't 2019 or even 2018.  It's for 2017. One critical piece of any government organization's financial picture is a report required by the Financial Information Act.  This report includes compensation for any employee earning $75,000 or more, and vendors receiving $25,000 or more in a fiscal year.  The 2018 report should have been available at the 2019 AGM, but its introduction was delayed until the following month. [Note that the figures for employee remuneration…
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Elizabeth May - Listening is the Primary Ingredient

As we open the menu for Canada’s election, how will Canadians choose the healthiest possibilities? Who looks most appetizing? We really must investigate the ingredients, starting with the one we know best, here in Saanich/Gulf Islands. Elizabeth May lifted a glass to us when she said, “It is the community spirit of our area that inspires and encourages me to be the best MP I can be. For the last eight years, it has been an honour to work for you.” Maintaining top attendance in that wine cellar known as Ottawa’s House of Commons, she refuses the acidity of heckling – instead, sprinkling other MPs with kindness even when strongly disagreeing with their policies. The savory in her more than 80 townhall meetings since 2011 is her respectful, 1 1⁄2-hour recipe: 25 minutes summarizing parliamentary activities, followed by an hour listening to questions and providing answers. Elizabeth understands that listening is the primary ingredient, as it is the only way that meanin…
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Islanders Health and Safety at Risk Without Clear Communications

Reliable and effective emergency communications are vital. The island’s Emergency Program debriefs conducted after last winter’s storms identified the serious and potentially disastrous inadequacies of the current system. Salt Spring Fire Rescue together with the other emergency services knows very well how critical clear communications are to their ability to respond. A new antenna that would deliver state of the art, reliable telecommunications for all of our emergency services have been proposed for a site situated between Lady Minto, the RCMP offices and (one day) Salt Spring’s Fire Rescue Department. It is for communications only among emergency services and is a critical element in a regional network. So, why would our politicians stymie this critically needed installation? It seems that a small group is fearful of electromagnetic fields (EMF) despite the findings of Health Canada and the World Health Organization and has made the politicians shy of making a stra…
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Trust to Put Brakes on Fulford Inn 'Vortex' Project

As many of you know, our proposal is a Development Permit with Variances. We propose to amend the motel, liquor store, and pub uses under the existing zoning into a modern, vibrant village square that offers an immersive Saltspring experience to visitors, while providing an essential gathering place for South Island residents, an essential community component sadly missing since the closure of the Fulford Inn ten years ago. Our application represents the highest standard of professional development, which provides a significant cultural amenity for our community while ensuring ongoing stewardship and protection of the Fulford Creek and estuary. After an extensive application process, we have finally learned that the staff will not recommend the application. Their interpretation of the bylaw is that the variances, which include three small retail kiosks of 300 sf (which would replace the liquor store use approved for the site), a market square for community gathering, while…
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Thoughts on My Trial, Part 3: Sentencing

On July 26th, the judge sentenced me to carry on with my volunteer work on Salt Spring -- no fine, no probation officer, no jail. For six months, I’m to “keep the peace and be of good behaviour.” Apparently, this is the most lenient sentence he's given to date for the 230+ convicted of contempt of court for protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX), most of them arrested in front of its Burnaby Terminal gate. I had a strong case for acquittal, since Trans Mountain failed to mark its property line, as legally required, which led to my arrest on their private property, counter to my intention and great care to stay on what I reasonably surmised to be public property, outside of the Injunction Order arrest zone. The RCMP had used the TM fence and gate for the property line, which they confirmed in court, when the real line is 24 metres away. For my light sentence, I also owe a lot to our great island, for the opportunity to volunteer with amazing people working …
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Growing Community Concern about Legion Radio Tower Siting

A week before the April 30th Salt Spring Local Trust Committee meeting, islanders learned that a 144-foot tall Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications (CREST) radio tower was in the final stages of approval for construction at the Legion in Ganges, and that 4G and eventually 5G cellular antennas would likely be added to this tower. In just seven days, a grassroots group of over 400 Salt Spring parents, elders, farmers, environmentalists, legal and health care professionals, and more, sent letters, signed petitions, rallied, and attended the April Trust meeting. This group voiced their concerns that this tower was being built in such close proximity to our island’s most vulnerable and, as stated by Gary Holman in his March 26, 2019 CRD Director’s report, that “cell service may be co-located to the tower” and that this “may have potential health impacts.” The group also recommended we offer our emergency service providers the best communications system possible …
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Concerns Raised Over Planned Capitol Regional District Emergency Services Radio Tower (CREST)

A 144-foot Capitol Regional District Emergency Services Radio Tower (CREST) is slated to be installed beside the Legion on Blain Road in Ganges within close proximity to our seniors’ residences, midwifery clinic, Salt Spring Daycare, Kings Lane Medical Clinic and Lady Minto Hospital. Scientific consensus tells us the modulated low frequency microwaves it will emit penetrate deeply and completely, causing biological harm. At 9:00am on Tuesday, April 30, a group of concerned Salt Spring residents will be rallying outside the Harbour House Hotel to insure the Islands Trust votes to send a letter of non-concurrence for this project to CREST. Why we are opposed to the Proposed Location for this Radio Antenna: Low Frequency, Big Impact. The modulated frequency microwaves this tower will emit, which are in the 132–174 MHz range, pose a greater concern than 5G’s millimeter waves. All standards-setting organizations have the strictest limitations between 30–300 MHz, as they pen…
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New Fire Hall – To Be Or Not To Be?

Salt Spring property owners have had the opportunity to review and vote upon a number of proposals for a replacement of the Ganges Fire Hall. All have been defeated but it’s time to look a little more closely at the reasons for the proposals and the reasons for the defeat. The Ganges Fire Hall has provided service since 1959. Most residents are aware that it was built on landfill, and should the Island suffer a major disaster, such as an earthquake, our Fire Hall, our rescue vehicles, and our personnel would disappear. That in and of itself provides the reason to construct a new Fire Hall at a new location. But there are more reasons. Our existing Hall is quaint, and some say sufficient. I disagree. It cannot house today’s standard “ladder truck” – a needed rescue vehicle. The current Hall was built for small pumper trucks. Limiting our equipment to pumper trucks jeopardizes our safety. We must be able to provide fire safety to any structure needed and approved…
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Fire Board Election Monday April 29, 2019: Risk of Foreign Influence?

Is there a risk that foreign powers will try to influence our 2019 Fire Board Trustee election? The good news is: Absolutely not. Nobody outside of Salt Spring Island really cares how we structure and manage our fire service. But this also shows how uniquely isolated we are as an island. While the Crofton Fire Department can call seven other departments for help, and they will respond within a very short period of time, our fire fighters here must deal with any possible threat scenario with the equipment, manpower and tools that they have at their disposal. The big storm before Christmas was an eye opener for our island. Within less than two hours of the storm hitting, the Island was completely disabled. Many residents lost power and even road access for weeks. While our emergency service and many volunteers were working tirelessly to a point of exhaustion, this storm showed how limited our resources really are when disaster hits. How will it look like if the big ear…
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