Incorporation: How a ‘Farmer’ Mayor Changed Me from Yes to No to Yes!

I went from a staunch YeSS! voter to a PosNo voter … and then the more I supported the PosNo’s position and saw how much they want to preserve and protect (which I do), prevent rampant development (which I do as well), save our precious farmers (love buying local!) and prevent runaway tax increases (yeah, that to!!) – I realized the only way to achieve what the PosNo side wants is for all of us to vote YeSS! and then vote the PosNo supporters into power by electing them as council and mayor! Win win!! Confused yet? Quite the Catch-22, wouldn’t you say? Here’s what happened to me today and why for about 30 minutes I was totally convinced we couldn’t possibly vote YeSS! and still preserve & protect this beautiful island we call home. I reached out to Mayor Ranns of Metchosin via email two days ago and he personally called me this morning. He has been a farmer forever, on council since 1987 and is now in his sixth term as Mayor. To say I was nervous to speak with him is an u…
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Incorporation: Ron Cooke on Voting Yes

Ron Cooke is involved in a number of affordable housing projects. He is voting yes. "I have lived on Salt Spring for 29 years, raised a family here and worked as a carpenter and later in home design - quite often in conjunction with Rammed Earth. I serve on the Board of Directors at Salt Spring Island Community Services."
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Incorporation: A Municipal Engineer's Perspective

This article is written for those who are currently undecided relative to the upcoming incorporation referendum, and are interested in reading a Municipal Engineer's perspective before making a decision. I am not one who writes articles to local papers; however, after having received the Positively No flyer in the mail I thought it prudent to provide my observations. My background is in municipal engineering consulting with most of my 30 year career providing planning and engineering services to small cities, towns, villages, rural counties and municipal districts in western Canada. More specifically I provided guidance to Councils relative to existing infrastructure rehabilitation and new infrastructure spending. In helping these communities attain their goals, it became apparent that working with both the Provincial and Federal levels of governments was a necessity. What was most noticeable to me was that the closer the level of government was to the people the more efficient…
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Incorporation: What Can a Water District Do?

The North Salt Spring Water District needs money: to raise the Duck Creek weir and for an eventual treatment plant at Maxwell Lake. Their board has recommended incorporation as the best option for raising those funds. But is it? The Facts Accessing government grants does not mean receiving Far from it: applications to the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program totalled almost 7 times the available funds the Gas Tax Agreement Strategic Priorities Fund has 11 separate criteria for funding; raising a weir and building a conventional water treatment plant meet few of them On Salt Spring, NSSWD would compete for scarce funding with projects like road upgrades, new fire hall, town hall, sewage treatment plant upgrade, etc. With incorporation all taxpayers face greater financial burdens and liabilities: road repair and maintenance, higher policing costs, many municipal expenses. Higher taxes could cancel out any benefit from possible grants. Better Op…
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Incorporation: Report Card on Local Governance

Progress on SSI under the current local governance structure; With another incorporation drive underway, we should not forget the considerable progress that has been achieved on Salt Spring Island under the existing Capital Regional District/Islands Trust local government structure since the 2002 referendum rejecting incorporation. The initiatives cover community facilities, housing, agriculture, energy and climate change, transportation, water, land use planning, economy, land conservation, solid and liquid waste. These initiatives have helped to build a healthy and vibrant community, preserved our natural heritage and created jobs on the island. Progress Report Collaboration among the Islands Trust, CRD & improvement districts, together with active and engaged community volunteers and access to millions of dollars of Federal and Provincial Government funding, have resulted in many major initiatives on Salt Spring Island, including: Community Facilities …
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Incorporation: Will be a Disaster for Local Farms

Indeed, incorporation will be a disaster for local farms. David Borrowman—a former local trustee for the Islands Trust—wrote: "Once the rhetoric has settled, I expect that incorporation would mean moving from an under-serviced rural area to an impoverished municipality.” If Salt Spring wants to remain a rural area, it makes sense to look at what could happen to the farming economy if we were to vote to incorporate. We know that farmers will be hardest hit by property tax increases. The provincial Farm Tax Exemption for farmers’ homes and buildings will be phased out over five years. The Urban Systems’ incorporation report estimates that farm property taxes would increase by $194/year on average, a 10% increase. Increases applied to all residential property would raise taxes even further. The district of West Kelowna incorporated in 2008. Five years later, after the transition period, farmers faced property tax increases of up to 240%, whereas the average homeowner had in…
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Incorporation: Positive, Low-risk Alternatives to Municipal Incorporation

Positive, Low-risk Alternatives to Municipal Incorporation We don’t need to incorporate: Improvements to our existing governance can be made without the increased road and policing costs and other risks of incorporation. Shockingly, the provincial government official overseeing the 2013-2016 Salt Spring Island governance and incorporation studies directed the committees and their consultants not to consider improvements that could be made under our existing form of governance. The committees were told that incorporation was the only alternative they could consider, even though existing provincial legislation allows numerous, less drastic changes. A Local Community Commission and other options: In 2010, a BC government official advised local elected representatives to consider converting improvement districts (water and fire) to CRD local service areas and creating additional CRD commissions to manage CRD service delivery: “Establishing a local community commission (LCC)…
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Incorporation: Fire and Water - Extreme Hazard

One of the reasons I will vote Yes is that there are problems that cannot be fixed under our current system. It doesn’t matter how optimistic one is. There are structural impediments built in today that no amount of hard work or co-operation or good will can fix. Let me describe just one. We have a fire department operated by what is called an improvement district, an archaic entity that has some of the smatterings of local government but that was really intended for tiny operations like three farmers sharing a well and a pumphouse, not performing important public safety tasks in a community of 10,000 strong. The fire district’s purpose – and this comes from legislation and what are called letters patent – is to prevent and if necessary suppress damage from uncontrolled fires. To fight fires, you need specialized equipment, well trained staff, and water. The fire district can buy equipment and train staff, but relies on others for water. On Salt Spring, the water comes fr…
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Incorporation: Mickey McLeod on Voting Yes

Mickey McLeod, CEO, co-founder and owner (with Robbyn Scott) of Salt Spring Coffee has lived on Salt Spring Island since Aug 1981 and has been a self-employed businessman employing a couple hundred people on Salt Spring Island during this time. "The current governance system has proven not to support visionary business leaders who want to do good for the community, provide gainful employment and help change the dial on how business can be conducted in today's world. Salt Spring Island could be a world class example how to do this, but the system is broken. In order to accomplish this, there is currently no plan and no vision. Leaving these kinds of decisions up to two people ( the two trustees on the Islands Trust at any given time) can have devastating costly affects, so I am voting YESS on Sept 9th.
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Incorporation: The Local Community Commission Option

This article attempts to correct some of the misleading and even false information presented by the Yes campaign and Urban Systems regarding the Local Community Commission (LCC) and other governance options. Urban Systems was the provincially-approved consultant hired to conduct the Salt Spring governance and incorporation studies. This article is long because there is so much misinformation to undo and so many information gaps to fill. In an August 2nd Facebook post, “Yes” advocate John Macpherson claimed that a Local Community Commission for Salt Spring is “not a legislatively available option”.  This is simply false. It is a distorted echo of a claim by Urban Systems that “… provincial legislation provides for either maintaining the status quo as an unincorporated electoral area or incorporating as a municipality.” In fact, the Local Government Act Part 6 provides the legislative basis for establishing an LCC within our existing unincorporated governance model. Urban S…
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Incorporation: Celia Duthie & Nick Hunt on Voting Yes

Celia Duthie & Nick Hunt ran Duthie Books in Vancouver for 20 plus years and have lived on Salt Spring since 2004. They opened Salt Spring Woodworks which later became the Duthie gallery. They are active members of the arts community on the island. "We both support the incorporation of the island and will be voting yes in the referendum. We feel that the island is ready for independence from Victoria and mature enough for self-government. We feel the island needs broader representation and more progressive pro-active planning for the future."
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Incorporation: Robin Williams on Voting Yes

Robin Williams -- on the demolition of the Fulford Inn by the CRD Building Inspection Department based in Victoria. Salt Spring resident Robin Williams is a well known community volunteer. He has chaired a CRD Commission, and is involved with The Islands Trust Fund, which is the land conservation side of Islands Trust. Here Robin speaks about one of the most sad moments in recent Salt Spring history.
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Incorporation: Liz Anderson on Voting Yes

Liz Anderson, a former Notary Public and Marriage Commissioner moved to Salt Spring in 1989. An active volunteer in the community, she has served on the Board of Community Services, been involved with the Tennis Association; Sailing Club; GIFTS (Gulf Islands Family Together Society which works transitioning young adults with disabilities into adult programs); as well as GISNA (Gulf Islands Special Needs Association which worked with the School District in providing services to students with special needs). She has served the Hospice Society for the last 10 years. "Our daughter Suzy, who has an intellectual disability, was our inspiration for forming the Therapeutic Riding Association in 2001. I continue to be heavily involved in the program as I am acutely aware of the incredible benefits to not only the riders, but also their families, the volunteers and the community. I am voting Yes because I want an elected council made up of Salt Springers; a council that is accessib…
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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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