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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Reimagining Salt Spring Island: Forward for the Better - not “Back to Normal”

This is an offering to our Salt Spring Island community in these troubled times where crisis and opportunity are the two faces of the situation we face as a community, as society, as a planet.  In order to get through this to some kind of better normal, we all need to raise big questions.  We need to talk about what’s hard to talk about.  That’s what we are trying to do here.  In doing so, we might upset some of you.  We can’t get this all right but we want to start the conversation. This is coming from a place of care and concern about the world we live in.  And of hope for the one we could co-create. What if we don’t go “back to normal” on Salt Spring Island. Normal was nurses and teachers without stable housing.  Normal was tons of visitors travelling by CO2 emitting planes, ferries and cars to go for a hike and have a nice dinner.  Normal was watching the Sysco food trucks drive off the ferry and past fallow farmland every single day.  Normal was locals avoiding Gange…
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ASK Salt Spring Gets Answers from MLA Adam Olsen

This virus has highlighted the imperative of a living space for all. What can we do to encourage the province to support the tiny home model so successful in other communities? The provincial government has recently announced a comprehensive program to provide short-term housing for people in our community that are experiencing homelessness and who need to uphold physical distancing requirements. The BC Green Caucus has advocated for housing-first models, and this is a positive step forward. As the public health emergency passes and we are considering options for the economic recovery, the provincial government will have an important opportunity to develop long-term programs that address housing and the associated supports to provide people the solid foundation they need to build. Tiny homes are a housing solution that I have long advocated. I have met with Hon. Selina Robinson (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing) to discuss the challenges tiny home advocates are e…
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ASK Salt Spring with Salt Spring Islands Trustee Laura Patrick

First, how are you doing during this crisis? Our household is adjusting to the stay home and social distancing norms. We worry about our eldest family members who are most vulnerable. My mother can now answer a FaceTime call, and she appears to be enjoying this form of communication. Can you tell us what the Islands Trust, especially our Local Trust Committee (LTC), is doing to help address this pandemic? On the operations side, Islands Trust has taken clear steps to minimize the transmission of Covid-19. This has included closing our offices to the public, sending most staff home to work, and suspending all site visits to limit off-Island visitors. As we emerge from this situation, the LTC will be eager to engage Salt Springers in a conversation about what regulatory and policy changes are necessary to ensure that our community is as resilient as possible to address future challenges. In addition to Islands Trust business, I am chairing a task force to coordinate o…
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ASK Salt Spring with Gary Holman, Salt Spring Island Electoral Area CRD Director

While ASK Salt Spring Friday gatherings at Thrifty’s have been temporarily-suspended, the need for information is still there. . . and is possibly greater than ever. Gary offered these answers to  Salt Springers’ questions: First, how are you doing during this crisis?  My family and I are well, and we feel grateful to be living in such a beautiful part of the world where governments, health systems, and communities are rising to this challenge.  My thanks to everyone in public or private sector organizations who are taking care of our essential needs, particularly our health care providers who are saving lives while putting theirs at risk. What is the hardest part for you to address as our CRD Director?  One of the most difficult issues has always been difficult - providing safe shelter and services for the homeless. I have prioritized CRD grants in aid this year to help support the Salt Spring Island Foundation Emergency Fund, as well as organizations like Community S…
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ASK Salt Spring with MLA Adam Olsen

Our MLA Adam Olsen was an early enthusiastic supporter of ASK Salt Spring, Neighbours Helping Neighbours Find Answers. And, that enthusiasm has continued with his commitment to come to ASK Salt Spring the first Friday every month. While these gatherings at Thrifty’s have been temporarily postponed, Adam continues to offer us many answers. Concerning Our Current Crisis: The message is simple and clear: Other than essential business, 100% of British Columbians should stay home 100% of the time. If you must go out, maintain physical distance from everyone and. make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and often. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on every aspect of our society. That freedom and liberty that we so cherish have been dramatically restricted. We are forced to recognize the fragility of the systems that we have created. My heart goes out to our frontline medical workers who face incredible challenges each day, including being forced to make hear…
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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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