Incorporation: I Can't Imagine Living Anywhere Else

When I moved to Salt Spring in 1979 with my wife and young daughter, I’d never heard of the Islands Trust. Truth to tell, I’d never heard of Salt Spring. We stumbled on it by chance, fell in love at first sight, and have been here ever since. That’s 38 years, over half my life, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. The longer I’ve been here, the more I’ve come to appreciate that Salt Spring didn’t get to be this uniquely vibrant community by accident. Its taken an equally unique form of governance. Mostly, we don’t think a whole lot about how we govern ourselves. Because the Trust has been so good at its job, it tends to be taken for granted. While its “preserve and protect” mandate is fairly well known, we don’t hear much about what the Trust has protected our island from. In the 1960s, in a real estate market not unlike today’s, developers did what they do when you let them and carved out 1,200 city-sized lots in the middle of North Pender Island. Tiny Mudge Isl…
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Incorporation: Democracy is Priceless

A common theme regarding the upcoming referendum is "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  I could agree with this notion if, in reality, our current system wasn't broken.  I realize that much of the discourse has focused on costs (roads, administration, etc.) or the impact (real or imagined) to the Islands Trust.  But how we are governed, how decisions are made, all translates to one issue that has tended to be overlooked: democracy.  And that is something irrevocably missing.... something "broke"... under our current system. There is expectation that “transparency” applies (or at least should apply) to those systems which govern our community.  We expect that monies are allocated and decisions are made on our behalf within plain view.  I suggest that this is not merely illusory, but is utterly undermined by our present structure. There are two significant factors at play: 1) logistics and 2) the Law. As to logistics, how many of us have managed to attend a quarterly meetin…
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Incorporation: No is Not Enough

As I understand it, most of the people voting no are doing so because they are worried about  development and the cost of incorporation. I’m voting yes for those very reasons. Let me explain. The Trust was formed in 1974 which was prior to the Energy Crisis, the centralized Wal-Mart business model (eg. Costco, Amazon), and outsourcing in general. Back then the survival of our species was not at all in question. We now live in a time where there are melting polar ice caps, record CO2 levels, acidification of the oceans, rapid rate of extinction of species, radiation issues from Fukushima, Chernobyl, and depleted uranium war heads, environmental refugees, etc. What matters now is so different to what mattered in 1974. We need to act according to today’s issues. Back in 1970, Denis Hayes coordinated the first Earth Day and later expanded it to over 180 nations. He is a hero of mine. What is he doing now? He is a developer, and one of the best. Here’s what he says: “The er…
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Incorporation: Affordable Housing

It’s not easy to find a place to live on Salt Spring. Like everywhere in Southern BC, housing on Salt Spring, whether for rent or for purchase, is expensive and in short supply, especially for average wage earners. There’s some talk that this situation would improve under incorporation, but the evidence suggests otherwise. More high-end development—a likely result of incorporation—will make the Salt Spring housing situation worse, not better. Purpose-built affordable housing is one solution. Salt Spring affordable housing consultant Janis Gauthier says that incorporation would not affect funding for affordable housing because Salt Spring housing providers already receive grants from federal, provincial and regional agencies. An example is the $4.5 million recently announced by the province to add units at Croftonbrook. Salt Spring already has several successful affordable housing projects: Pioneer Village, Croftonbrook, Meadowbrook, Dean Road, Murakami Gardens, Grand…
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Incorporation: Urban Systems' Estimates of Post-incorporation Policing Costs

Urban Systems estimates that Salt Spring’s annual policing costs would jump by $871,000 under incorporation i.e. from the $407,000 per year we are paying now to $1,278,000 per year after the transition period. They then assume that expenditures would remain at that level in constant (inflation-adjusted) dollars. How realistic is their assumption? A 2009 Union of BC Municipalities report found that “policing cost increases have been double the rate of increase in property taxes [and that] the increasing police expenses put pressure on other needed services as there is limited overall tax tolerance.” Here is a link to the 2009 UBCM report. Has this trend continued since 2009? Urban Systems does not say anything about trends in municipal policing costs. Historical costs for RCMP municipal detachments in BC were not readily available, but the table below shows historical policing costs in the nearby Town of Sidney (2016 population 11,672). Sidney’s policing costs have incr…
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Incorporation: Myths Around Grants

There is too much misleading information making the rounds about all the grant money Salt Spring would supposedly receive if we incorporate. Perhaps some persons are even led to believe that we get no grants at all now. The truth is that Salt Spring already receives numerous grants - possibly more than our share - from many different sources. To name only a few examples, we have received significant grants for land conservation, to construct our library, ArtSpring, the swimming pool, community pathways, the Ganges sewer system and Murakami Gardens. Our success in this respect would make us the envy of any small community. From 2001-2017, Salt Spring was the recipient of some $60 million in grants. We have done very well. The Lieutenant Governor of BC, the Honourable Judy Guichon, visited Salt Spring in 2013. She made a point of lauding how much we had accomplished given our size. She knows BC communities well and she was rightly impressed. The federal government als…
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Incorporation: Irene Wright's Personal Take on the Referendum

I have lived on Salt Spring Island for exactly 50 years. Arriving here was a big lesson in politics for me. Where I hadπ lived before, mainly in Calgary, politics was something that was “out there;” it was something that we read about or watched on the news and sometimes it was interesting, or scary, as in the Cuban crisis. I was not directly implicated and certainly had no sense of the ability of an “ordinary” individual to bring about change. Moving to Salt Spring was an education for my late husband Tom and me. Here was a community of 2,300 people set to explode as developers saw great opportunities to make a lot of money. Salt Spring’s management was sketchy. Shortly before we arrived in 1967 a developer had planned a subdivision in the relatively small area around Howard Road next to us on St. Mary Lake with a plan for 75 city-sized lots each to have its own septic system. The Ministry of Health was the only regulatory group until 1966, the formation of the CRD, and …
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Incorporation: Islander Susan Russell on Voting Yes

A voice of experience. Susan Russell, a business woman, teacher and community volunteer served as a Salt Spring PARC commissioner for 6 years. Having worked within the current system, she became an advocate for a municipal governance. "As a PARC commissioner I helped with the community process of initiating and approving the Rainbow Road Pool, including the successful referendum, ensuring funding, and ensuring community support. I worked with good people as fellow commissioners, but the biggest stumbling block to our initiatives and successes was the lack of an incorporated municipality. I attended meetings, and followed the proceedings of the Island Trust. I came to appreciate the role of the Island Trust in their "preserve and protect” mandate for our community and our values."
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Incorporation: Which side are you on?

So which side are you on - Positively NO or Negatively YES? The Incorporation question by it’s nature divides our community rather than uniting it in creating an inclusive model for self-government. Some folks win, and others inevitably lose. Why would we do this to ourselves? (More below). Once upon a time the Duncan area was every bit as lovely as Salt Spring Island, but for decades Duncan has had a different form of government than we have here. Salt Spring Island is protected by the Islands Trust, and the difference is priceless. Perhaps the easiest way to appreciate SSI is to leave it for a while. Go anywhere else that has a comparable population and notice what happens when your environment becomes a commodity. We’re not unique in that Salt Spring Island faces some challenges (are you self-employed or unemployed)? There are good jobs to be had, but also many low-wage part time jobs that coincide with a seasonal shortage of decent, affordable housing. T…
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Incorporation: Islander Matt Steffich on Voting Yes

Matt Steffich is a long established islander who has worked on the Ganges Harbour Walk Project (aka 'the Ganges Boardwalk') for 5 years and counting. The project has many participants including the Islands Trust, Transportation Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission and the Chamber of Commerce. Matt describes how difficult it's been to move forward with projects the community wants, like the boardwalk, and why he is voting Yes.
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Incorporation: We Can Do So Much Better

What we have on Salt Spring is rural sprawl. It’s the opposite approach to community planning that one would expect to see. Ganges is dead after 6PM, everyone clears out and goes home. You could fire a cannon and no one would even notice. What if home for more people was right in Ganges? Just imagine that for a second… a vibrant, lively evening scene with galleries, coffee shops, etc, open. Maybe a hostel, or two. Mahon Hall being used more frequently as a go-to place for live entertainment. Why has higher density not been adopted in and around town? Apartments, condos, etc. How about if the height restriction had been 3 stories within a given area around Ganges? We’d see the tried-and-true model of retail/commercial on the ground floor with apartments and/or condos up above used more widely. Even the library could have been designed with at least one layer of residential up above it, and that could have at least paid for that building’s overhead instead of being an …
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Incorporation: Gary Holman on Infrastructure Funding

I’m writing in response to John McPherson’s column in which he argues that Salt Spring will not get its fair share of infrastructure funding unless we incorporate.  Mr. McPherson focuses on one particular source of funding – the Strategic Projects Fund (SPF) that is part of federal gas tax funding.  He cites data for 2015 indicating that Salt Spring has only received $60,000 planning grant from the fund, but fails to mention that no other individual municipality in the CRD received SPF funding either, except for Saanich which also received a planning grant.  All the other SPF funding within the CRD was for joint projects of regional significance involving several municipalities. The article omitted a few other facts.  Salt Spring has received millions in Community Works gas tax funding over the past decade, that has helped finance a number of water, pedestrian/cycling infrastructure projects on the island.  Community Works funding, currently at roughly $400,000/yr, is direct…
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Incorporation: Cheese Maker, David Wood on Voting Yes

David Wood, cheese maker and well-respected community member, has moderated many Salt Spring political panels and debates for the last 25 years. He wants to let everyone know that there has NEVER been a threat of ONE “pro-development” candidate on Salt Spring Island in all these years of his experience.
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Incorporation Opinion: Joan McConnell on Voting Yes

Joan McConnell came to Salt Spring Island from Montreal at the end of 1988 with her husband Allen. They were soon involved with their fellow islanders at numerous town meetings as the mandate to preserve and protect the Gulf islands evolved. Joan believes that this sacred trust will endure with incorporation while other problems arising from the growth of the population can be better addressed with our own council. The past has been wonderful and the future is not to be feared believes this nonagenarian. Joan has been a huge supporter of the arts on SSI and has been the main contributor to the prizes for SSNP.
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Incorporation Opinion: Roads - A Critical Assessment

I attended Brenda Guiled’s roads presentation at the Lions Hall on June 20th. Brenda deserves credit for all the work she’s done on Salt Spring’s transportation issues, and for the digging she’s been doing about the true cost of roadworks during and after our incorporation study committee’s work. Regrettably, I found some of Brenda’s points speculative. A committed No voter would use them to support their position. A committed Yes voter would dismiss them as hand waving. An undecided voter would wonder what’s true. For example, Brenda remarked about the province’s commitment – if we vote Yes – to widen and resurface 13km of Fulford-Ganges Road when it’s 14km long, suggesting that they would leave out Ganges and Fulford hills, the most expensive parts of the project. That met with nods and murmurs from the committed Nos in the audience. But Brenda misrepresented what the province promised. The Minister’s letter of September 20, 2016 promises “complete resurfacing of a…
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Incorporation Opinion: Tree House Owner, Mark LeCorre on Voting Yes

Salt Spring Island’s Tree House Cafe faced a huge challenge a few years ago that threatened the cafe’s existence and resulted in an online petition signed by thousands of people. Tree House Owner, Mark LeCorre explains what happened. And why he is voting yes. Vote Yes to Salt Spring Island Municipality Group
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