Don’t Let the Islands Trust Walk Away from Us

Right now the Islands Trust is reviewing a proposal to remove community from its mandate, as expressed in a new Policy Statement currently being debated. You can send a letter to tell the Trustees to not abdicate their role in protecting our unique culture and community. What does community mean to you? How does it help you live a good life? How does it help when you face challenges, or even a disaster? During the global disaster we’re currently living, the value of this special community has never been more clear to me. From everyone at my kid’s school to the never-ending bounty on the shelves of our grocery stores, our hard working hospital staff to the amazing network of alternative healers, those making a nice coffee or serving take-out lunch when I'm too busy to make another meal at home. Salt Spring seems to be surviving the pandemic pretty well, but because of the other major crisis predating the pandemic - housing - this foundation of our community is quick…
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ASK Salt Spring Explores Numerous Islands Trust’s Initiatives with Trustee, Laura Patrick

Twelve participated in this ASK Salt Spring Zoom gathering welcoming one of our Islands Trust’s Local Trustees, Laura Patrick. After a heartfelt territorial acknowledgment, Laura began by sharing her optimism for the emerging alignment of planning initiatives designed to address a number of challenges for Salt Spring. The best solutions to any of these challenges are the ones that simultaneously address multiple issues confronting our island -- such as forest health, biodiversity, watersheds/water supply, the climate emergency, land use, housing, small business health, food security, and the spirit and resiliency of our community. Laura was asked a number of questions related to the housing action program. She explained that this program is aimed at solutions that are within the authority of the Islands Trust’s Salt Spring Local Trust Committee (LTC). Identifying solutions will come through open dialogue. This dialogue will not make differences disappear or lead everyone to …
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The Gentrification Question

As trustees prioritize affordable housing and call for volunteers to take part in a task force, have they forgotten they are up against market forces, the constraints of the Islands Trust Act and a never-ending press of humanity? It is important to note the current housing initiative is not just about securing accommodation for local workers. Housing advocates and Trustee Laura Patrick, in particular, are aiming for sweeping changes they believe will provide more “attractive and affordable housing” for the general population. In a recent article, Laura wrote: “We know that: Rental supply is dire, the cost of housing on the island is simply beyond the reach of a majority of islanders, that seniors and young families are particularly vulnerable to housing stress, and that too many people are reduced to living in travel trailers, accessory buildings and boats. The solution, of course, is to build a greater variety of homes, more affordable homes and with affordable, realisti…
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Safety Concerns Regarding Musgrave Road

I am writing this letter to express our community’s concern over the extremely dangerous conditions on the 11.3 km of Musgrave Road. In fact, I have been writing letters since 2014 expressing my concerns and requesting that a multi-year plan be implemented to bring this road up to its safety standard. This is a Class 6 public road that falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), who contracts out the maintenance work to private maintenance contractors. The current contractor is Emcon Services Inc. and previously it was Mainroad South Island Contracting Ltd. These are the people responsible for the condition of this road. Based on an independent study of all Salt Spring Island roads, this one was the worst; the next lowest road rating was approximately 5 times higher. Musgrave Road is a terrible road and desperately needs work. At the top of MOTI’s webpage is the following statement: The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastru…
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ASK Salt Spring Economic Development, Burgoyne Trails, ICBC Rebates and More with MLA Adam Olsen

Twenty-three gathered via Zoom to welcome MLA Adam Olsen and his staff to listen and learn about the issues that matter most to them. After a heartfelt territorial acknowledgement, we asked Adam to begin by sharing what was on his mind. Seeking to identify those things that excite and delight him, he spoke with enthusiasm of finally being able to be in his legislative office, the lovely old wainscoting making a satisfying background for this Zoom gathering. He also shared his enthusiasm for the new, street-level, Sidney office he will soon occupy. Across from Tanners Books, it is a new building that is estimated to be complete by April. He is looking forward to being back in the Legislature March 1 and to begin debating the budget, postponed from its normal February timeline. He spoke of drafting the long-anticipated Private Members Bill on tree-cutting on the Southern Gulf Islands. The bill will not necessarily prohibit logging but will add default protections and give t…
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Affordable Housing - Shifting from Study to Action

In a post published on January 22, 2021, I wrote that I wasn’t able to locate any information about the “Housing Challenges and Solutions Planning Project” on the Islands Trust website. Ten days later, an open letter from Trustee Laura Patrick appeared on the Salt Spring Exchange: “I’m pleased to report that progress is being made towards tackling the affordable housing issue on Salt Spring. The Islands Trust’s Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee (LTC) has just approved a bold new Housing Action Program, and I’m confident it will finally put us on the right path to a solution”. Full of excitement, I followed the link mentioned in Laura’s post, and there it was: The Salt Spring Island Housing Action Program!! My excitement didn’t last long, as I soon realized that the word ‘ACTION’ used in the name of the project was a misnomer. Instead of action, which is defined as: a thing done; an act, the project is merely a ‘study’ , a detailed investigation and analysis of a subje…
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ASK Salt Spring Explores Soon-To-Be-Released Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2.0

Seventeen gathered via Zoom, welcoming some of the many authors of our soon-to-be-released Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2.0. We celebrated the completion of this audacious plan, taking thousand of hours of volunteer work researching and writing as well as outreach to over 2,000 members of our community, government officials, and a wide variety of local nonprofits. Darryl Martin (Chair) joined us as well as authors Simon Wheeler, Peter Lamb, and Jim Standen. We learned that it is a long document - over 100 pages - but that segments are downloadable separately. This will allow readers to begin by selecting only, for example, the Executive Summary (a mere five pages) and then proceeding to download chapters of most interest to them. Even this segmenting strategy may not work for all as one participant said, I will not read the entire report: Just give me the 10 things that I need to do! The plan will be available within the next few weeks. The conversation began with transporta…
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Ask Salt Spring: Role of Restorative Justice in Our Community

After a heartfelt territorial acknowledgment, 13 ASK Salt Spring participants welcomed Restorative Justice volunteers Darlene Gage and Laura Defoe. Also Zooming about with us was our new RCMP Sargent, Clive Seabrook. We all also welcomed his participation in our conversation. We began by learning about Restorative Justice (RJ) and its exciting potential to help address the oft-discussed issues of safety in our community. Based on indigenous principles, RJ seeks a system of restoration rather than punishment. RJ volunteers work to restore a relationship between the responsible person (often seen in our culture as the “offender") and the affected person (often viewed as the “victim".) We learned that RJ has been a volunteer-driven initiative on Salt Spring for over 20 years and may be the longest running program you have never heard of, according to Darlene. There are over 90 RJ branches throughout British Columbia with a large number of programs on Vancouver Island and ev…
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Tiny Homes – The Solution to Homelessness on Salt Spring Island?

I've been researching and writing about homelessness for many years, and have looked at the issue while traveling throughout Europe and Canada, as well as here on Salt Spring. In my post, written two years ago, I ask a number of important questions, including: Why can't we use innovative and creative ideas to create alternative housing here on Salt Spring? Why not look at what other communities have done to assist their formerly homeless residents to create community and innovative solutions to homelessness? Are tiny homes a solution to homelessness on Salt Spring Island? Both of our local trustees mentioned tiny homes in the report from the January 19, 2021 Islands Trust Zoom meeting. Peter Grove would like it to be easier for tiny homes to be built on Salt Spring, but he also noted that there are examples of tiny home communities that are not working out as expected. Surprising to some, we also learned that there are almost no successful tiny home communities in British…
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Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park Multi-Use Trails Under Threat

One of the best-loved parks on the island is becoming much less user friendly. Hikers, mountain bikers, birders, equestrians, and dog walkers have all happily used the trail network in Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park since it was first established in 2004. The heart of that network was a multi-use loop trail now partially decommissioned. In addition, a metal grid bridge has been removed and a new, narrow, pedestrian-only bridge with steps has been constructed over a creek by the bay. This eliminates access to equestrians and poses an obstacle for some walkers and bikers. Then there are the swales, a series of deep ditches, constructed on another portion of trail, which make safe passage difficult and probably impossible in the rainy season. These changes, all undertaken without consultation with those most likely to be affected, are a consequence of remediation work in the park. No one disputes that the plan to restore wetlands and control watercourses is a worthy park manageme…
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Opinion: How Our Bylaws Undermine Rural Life and Livelihoods

Our complaint-driven bylaw system, and many of the laws themselves, are undermining rural people’s lives and livelihoods here on Salt Spring Island. By prohibiting the traditional economic stepping stones and ways of life of homesteaders, artisans, and the rural working class, as well as increasingly curtailing the ways land holders may participate in the tourist economy, our LUB (Land Use Bylaw) exacerbates already economically and socially polarizing housing, real estate and construction industries. It favours affluent estate owners whose livelihoods are not dependent on being able to use their land. The ‘preserve and protect’ mandate driving the Trust’s LUB ossifies select aspects of Salt Spring’s settler past. The present is shackled by it. Creativity is stifled. Forcing the non-elite into untenable moulds, the LUB effectively outlaws both “non- nuclear family structures” and the forms of social capital which homesteaders, artisans, and the rural working class rely on. A…
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Making the Case for Safe Cycling with Alternative Options

As a long time island cyclist it is very encouraging to hear Capital Regional District (CRD) Director Gary Holman announce new cycling infrastructure to be built in the next year. Especially notable is a 1.5 meter shoulder going up the Ganges Hill from Seaview Avenue to Beddis Road, and while I applaud such moves, much is still needed to make our island safe for cycling. I have seen lately a big increase of cyclists on our island roads and with ebikes making hill climbing much easier, I believe we are going to keep seeing more cyclists for the next few years. Many are rediscovering the joys of bicycling because of COVID and social distancing; it is an activity that remains safe, that is as long as no one gets hit by a car. The reason there is poor cycling infrastructure on Salt Spring is that for many years, local cyclists have been told that bike paths are very expensive and in this part of the world, where bicycles are often looked at as a toy rather than a viable mode …
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An Urgent Plea to The One Million People Living in Canada Who Are Eligible to Vote in U.S. Elections

Opinion: Close to a million people living in Canada still retain the ability to vote in U.S. elections. The potential influence of that many voters is profound and the stakes could not be higher. My great-grandparents came to the U.S. by ship as refugees, arriving at Ellis Island in New York with only the clothes they were wearing. My great-grandfather supported his young family as an itinerant salesman travelling by horse and wagon, peddling mules and eyeglasses. The family eventually settled in southern Delaware, where they were able to do what would never have been possible in their home country: own land. They purchased farms, opened a store that provided supplies and free advice to local farmers, and eventually created an enterprise so successful that the family was able to send my father and his siblings to college, another impossible dream. In 2001, when my wife and I decided to immigrate to Canada, a choice that our relative privilege allowed, my father simply cou…
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Should the Islands Trust “Preserve and Protect the Environment, People and Culture” Mandate Apply to Housing?

Culture Prior to the creation of the Salt Spring Island (SSI) Official Community Plan (OCP), there was a building culture that was diverse and showed preference for local materials. From the local timbers used at Moby’s, Grace Point, Barb’s Buns, Artspring, and Creekside, to the local stonework on the side of Thrifty’s, as columns in the high school, to the local rammed earth and cob, our local building artisans with support from clients and GCs, would think long and hard prior to hiring and buying off-island. Some of these pursuits continue today, although with more difficulty as SSI no longer has a Senior Building Inspector who can authorize unusual building assemblies. What’s been missing for me is expressing local culture in our buildings. It has been missing for so long that many people don’t even know what that means. Imagine if the contributions made to SSI by the early Hawaiians or black people or hippies, or greenies, or spiritual folk, or artists, or farmers or lo…
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ASK Salt Spring with MLA Adam Olsen

Twenty-three Salt Springers welcomed our MLA Adam Olsen to this gathering in the United Church Meadow. (Two others listened from a distance, but they never joined our circle nor our conversation.) While the air was smokey - a constant reminder of those in peril in the fires to the south - the rain gods held off to allow us to again gather in the lovely Meadow. Adam began by inviting us all to speak from our hearts when we begin our meetings with an acknowledgment of our unceded territory. We were assured that, if spoken from the heart, it will be exactly as it should be. It is only the rote phrases that are repeated over and over that are meaningless. He suggested we may want to acknowledge the unbelievably-destructive impacts the colonial system has had upon our indigenous peoples and our environment. We may want to also consider the impacts it has upon us all. Adam’s advise is that if we are feeling frustration about this antediluvian system, it is okay to share those…
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ASK Salt Spring Gathering with Gary Holman

Fifteen participated in this ASK Salt Spring gathering that welcomed special guest CRD Director, Gary Holman. (Three others listened outside the circle in the shade of the apple tree.) The focus of much of the conversation was upon affordable housing progress and the stumbling blocks impeding this progress. The discussion began with a question about the proposed CRD affordable housing on Drake Road, property donated by School District 64. We learned that, while BC Housing continues discussions with CRD about a project on a portion of that property, there has still not been a definitive decision that Gary can share. The developer of the proposed 30-home Dragonfly development spoke to us about recently obtaining water certification for this affordable housing development. (The process to get this certification from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development - FLNRORD - took two-and-one-half years to complete.) With a very high flow (…
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MLA Adam Olsen: Bring BC Ferries Back Into Government

The provincial government is responsible for the provincial transportation network including our ferry system, the critical service connecting coastal communities. That is why the BC Greens advocate for BC Ferries to be brought back into government. The ferries system connects us to our homes, our businesses and our communities. They are critical for the economic survival of coastal British Columbia. When an issue with the BC Ferries service arises, it is usually followed by an immediate and visceral reaction from the public. With at least a third of our provincial economy linked by our marine highways, the provincial government must ensure that the service is robust, reliable, convenient and affordable. This is a message I have heard consistently from my constituents in Saanich North and the Islands and across British Columbia. BC Ferries was deeply impacted when Dr. Bonnie Henry responded to the COVID-19 global pandemic by asking people to stay home and ordering stri…
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Opinion: Concerns About Islands Trust Consultation and Direction

On July 20 the Islands Trust Council shared a News Release announcing the release of a report which summarises the input received from engagement with people in the trust area. As you may know, this report titled “What we Heard” will be used to revise the Islands Trust Policy Statement, and determine the future direction - and priorities - of The Islands Trust. It is a beautiful report, with icons, easy to follow and read. But as I read this (extremely easy to read, accessible and informative summary) document I became increasingly alarmed by the content - on a number of levels. Please note that consultation with the 28,000 Coast Salish Peoples will happen separately, so this letter refers to the non-Coast Salish Peoples of which I am a part. Here are my 5 main issues I have with the report and why I was so upset: 1) Extensive engagement? The Press Release says it was “an extensive public engagement process to inform planning and policy for the next 30 years.”…
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On Salt Spring, Solutions for Environment Must Include People

A recent commentary might make Times Colonist readers think the beautiful and protected Gulf Islands are about to be destroyed by an unlikely villain — affordable housing advocates. “Development has put Gulf Islands in death spiral” wasn’t a very subtle headline. The writer is well-known on our idyllic but argumentative Salt Spring, and his favourite target of late is the affordable housing “lobby” that is set to ruin his little slice of paradise. I am one of those housing advocates, so allow me to provide a more complex picture of the pressures impacting both the island’s population and its ecology. Frants Attorp and I, like most Gulf Islanders, share great concern for the twin crises in biodiversity and climate change. Where we differ greatly is on the local issues making things worse, and who gets to benefit from the solutions proposed. Our volunteer advocacy group, Salt Spring Solutions, was formed three years ago when we saw multiple non-profit affordable housi…
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BC Green Caucus Advocates for Rebuilding With Cleaner, Green Economy

After nearly four-months away the British Columbia Legislative Assembly will finally resume. MLA’s will sit for eight weeks through July and August. British Columbia has been widely recognized for our collective handling of the pandemic. Our public health professionals, civil service and politicians have all been focussed on addressing the emergency as best as possible. Our response and the result have been remarkable. As we begin the economic recovery there are critical choices that must be made. Are we going to rebuild the economy of the last century? Or, are we going to build a cleaner, greener, more resilient economy of the future? With this key question in mind, the BC Green Caucus has been working closely with the provincial government to encourage them to invest in the latter. We recognize the investments coming out of the pandemic will set the direction for the coming decades. B.C. has the opportunity to be a climate leader, make strategic investments and build…
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ASK Salt Spring Welcomes Adam Olsen - Clean Air and a Green Recovery?

The ASK Salt Spring Zoom session last Friday with MLA Adam Olsen as our special guest, began when Adam shared his concerns about social distancing and the relaxation of our self-isolation. Can we learn behaviors during these more-relaxed outdoor months that will help us in the coming cooler months when we are forced indoors? Can we learn to take control of our own space and keep this space when we need to move indoors again? Question: A unintended benefit of COVID 19 has been cleaner air. What should BC and the provincial government immediately do to sustain this improvement in air quality? Adam and Sonya have written a green (not Green) recovery document detailing ways to invest that will produce a net positive for both the economy and the climate. Although it is not yet ready to be widely shared, this nine-page document will be released soon. When asked what the government will do concerning our environment, he predicted that it would become harder and harder for …
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