ASK Salt Spring explores multi-organization collaborations supporting complex local initiatives

Thirty-two joined this ASK Salt Spring gathering to welcome Nora Layard, Chair of Transition Salt Spring Enterprise Coop - TSSEC; Shannon Cowan, Executive Director of the Salt Spring Island Foundation; Robert Steinbach, Country Grocer’s Community Relations and Business Development; and Julie Kemble, Chair of the Arts Council. They joined us to discuss their role in funding local initiatives as well as partnering in multi-organization collaborations to support more complex local initiatives. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, each of our guests were asked what excited and delighted them. Julie began, sharing her enthusiasm for our topic of funding local projects, especially support for our arts. She also shared that she is thoroughly enjoying her work with the highly-skilled Arts Council Board which has recently unveiled its five-year strategic plan. Speaking of the Arts Council’s ability to fund arts projects, Julie typified them as little grants but went on to tell u…
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Opinion: More than just ruffled feathers

In the past couple years there has been a lot of crowing on this island about the so-called “rooster wars,” with the majority of this community laughing at the issue and rolling their eyes. Must be nice when the biggest problem you face is a couple roosters, right? While calling something a silly name might make for an attention-grabbing headline, it also minimizes the seriousness of the situation and frames the people involved as insignificant. This isn’t about the benefits of roosters — the pros and cons have been written about far and wide, both on this island as well as by agriculture and food security experts. The issue has evolved into a widespread one about what you can and cannot do with property you bought, according to the zoning laws governing that property. The issue should really be framed as “Should the CRD be allowed to strong-arm you, even though what you’re doing is legal?” Makes for a less catchy headline but it’s also something this community would l…
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ASK Salt Spring with Local Community Commissioners Ben Corno, Brian Webster, Earl Rook, Gayle Baker and Electoral Director, Gary Holman

Thirty joined this ASK Salt Spring gathering to welcome our Local Community Commissioners (LCC) Ben Corno (bcorno@crd.bc.ca), Brian Webster (bwebster@crd.bc.ca), Earl Rook (erook@crd.bc.ca), Gayle Baker (gbaker@crd.bc.ca) and Gary Holman, also our Electoral Director, (directorssi@crd.bc.ca). After our Territorial Acknowledgment, facilitator Grant Fredrickson began by asking each of our guests what excited and delighted them about being Salt Spring’s first Local Commissioners. Ben began by expressing his pleasure that the months of discussion about the 2024 budget had concluded, allowing the Local Commissioners to turn their full attention to creative solutions to Salt Spring issues. Earl agreed with Ben’s sentiment, adding that he was looking forward to participating in the continued development of the LCC into its full potential as Salt Spring’s local government. Brian added that he was pleased with the capacity of the LCC to listen to and act on really important local i…
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ASK Salt Spring welcomes MLA Adam Olsen and his Constituency Advocate, Jerram Gawley

Twenty came to welcome MLA Adam Olsen and Jerram Gawley, his Constituency Advocate, to this ASK Salt Spring gathering. Adam added to our Territorial Acknowledgement by reminding us that his people had a tradition of overlapping spaces, a homeland to different groups sharing linguistic and cultural roots but still very different. He reminded us that these overlapping boundaries accommodating multiple groups were extremely difficult for crown governments far more comfortable with maps identifying discrete ownership. When asked what excited and delighted him, Adam immediately responded that being on Salt Spring did just that. He is glad that he spends a lot of time here and is honoured that he has been accepted as our advocate. He is pleased that we trust him to bring our unique perspective to the legislature. He was also appreciative of his recent day on a panel with Chief John Jack and Eric Nyce of the Nisga’a Nation at the Leaders Governmental Learning Academy. These pane…
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ASK Salt Spring welcomes longtime Salt Spring leader, Tom Toynbee

Nineteen joined us to welcome longtime Salt Spring leader, Tom Toynbee. He took us on a meander down Memory Lane, and did we ever learn a lot about Ganges’ fascinating history! For many of us, it was a welcome break from concern about today’s issues to immerse ourselves in a time past and enjoy Tom’s amazing memory and passion for all things Ganges. Tom was born at Lady Minto Hospital (at the location of today’s Community Services) on May 8, 1934. Yes, he has a big birthday approaching :). We all shared a laugh when we learned that his first visitor as a newborn in the hospital was 3 1/2-year old Bob Rush wearing nothing but his gumboots! Tom went to the Salt Spring Consolidated School, now our Elementary School, graduating in 1952. Having only been to Victoria twice a year to a visit to the dentist, Tom knew little but Salt Spring. What a different world of travel and celebrity Tom saw as a member of the UBC rowing team. Often treated as royalty, his team swept the rowin…
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ASK Salt Spring... even though we had no ASK Salt Spring gathering this week, we do have some news

Unfortunately, snow forced a cancellation of this gathering. Anticipated as a rich conversation about funding options for local initiatives, Funding a healthy and resilient Salt Spring, our team of experts, Shannon Cowan, Salt Spring Island Foundation; Nora Layard, Transition Salt Spring Economic Co-Op (TSSEC); Robert Steinbach, Country Grocer Community Outreach; and Julie Kemble, Chair of the Arts Council, have promised to join us Friday, February 16, 11-1, in the SIMS classroom next to the Boardroom. But, even though we had no ASK Salt Spring gathering this week, we do have some news: On October 20, BC Ferries President and Chief Executive Officer, CAO Nicholas Jimenez was ASK Salt Spring’s special guest. We got many answers at this gathering, documented in the ASK Salt Spring Report. But, Nicholas left some questions unanswered, promising answers. We have just received these answers Question: Nicholas was asked what BC Ferries could do to help promote the Salish …
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ASK Salt Spring with MP Elizabeth May and Ned Taylor, Constituency Coordinator

Due to freezing temperatures and icy roads, only 11 came to welcome our MP Elizabeth May and Ned Taylor, Constituency Coordinator. While the numbers were disappointing but understandable, those who braved the weather all contributed to an amazing and rich conversation with Elizabeth. After our Territorial Acknowledgment, we asked Elizabeth what excited and delighted her. Her answer was immediate and heartfelt: I am delighted to be alive! We then learned more about her recent stroke. While the most common strokes are ischemic, caused by a blocked artery in the brain, Elizabeth’s was a hemorrhagic stroke, caused by the bursting of a blood vessel in her brain. Aware of the warning signs of the more common ischemic strokes, she was totally unprepared for the absence of stroke warning signs; the only indication of her hemorrhagic stroke was an unbelievably unbearable headache. Thankfully, Elizabeth is fine with absolutely no damage; others are not so lucky with some survivors …
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Opinion: Part 3 - Should Salt Spring Ratepayers have a choice in the design and build of our New Fire Hall?

Does the current Firehall Plan that the Chair of the SSI Fire Improvement District (SSIFID) - Board of Trustees has tabled have the Ratepayers of Salt Spring Island needlessly committed to a 2 Bay, 11,500 Sq Ft Fire Hall at a cost of $20.6 Million? This was brought up by a Fellow Ratepayer who is concerned about costs as well. If the Cumberland Fire Hall Plan was chosen, it immediately provides a cost saving of $4 Million to the Chair’s Plan. Here’s the interesting part, the reduction in debt financing on $4 Million over a 20 year amortization period saves Ratepayers approximately $4 Million. Total cost saving of ~$8 Million Dollars for Salt Spring Ratepayers. With the current inflation situation and the housing crisis, this not an insignificant cost saving that our Fire Board Chair refuses to acknowledge. Our Fire Hall is quickly garnering the dubious distinction of being the most costliest Rural - 2 Bay Firehall not only in BC but Canada and quite possibly North America. …
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ASK Salt Spring with Local Community Commissioners Ben Corno, Brian Webster, Gayle Baker, and Electoral Director, Gary Holman

Eleven came to this ASK Salt Spring gathering to welcome Local Community Commissioners (LCC) Ben Corno, Brian Webster, Gayle Baker, and Gary Holman, also our Electoral Director. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, Commissioners were asked what excited and delighted them. Ben began by using the example of the construction at Centennial Park as an opportunity to be in the know about what was happening at the park. He was pleased that he could help address Salt Springers’ fears as well as apologize for the unfortunate timing of the start of construction just before the Remembrance Day celebration at Centennial. Brian continued with this example, a clear indication of the challenges of getting important information to everyone. He reminded us that, despite a recent article in the Driftwood about Centennial Park construction, many were totally surprised when the fence went up and construction began. Brian cited the difficulty of getting information to everyone, despite great e…
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ASK Salt Spring with librarian Julia Wagner on the Salt Spring Island Public Library's 'FabLab'

While only seven joined this ASK Salt Spring gathering, we had a fabulous time welcoming Librarian Julia Wagner and learning all about our new FabLab. While we now know all about this wonderful new opportunity to learn and create, you may wonder: Whatever is a FabLab? Short for ‘Fabrication Laboratory,’ this exciting new offering is one of many of our Library’s many initiatives designed to close the digital divide through combining science, technology, creativity, and fun for all ages. At our FabLab you can design and create what you want, using their equipment and materials free of charge. You might say: This is only for young, agile tech minds! But, you would be wrong. While it is extremely popular for children and teens, the appeal of this FabLab includes all generations. Why? Have you ever experienced breaking a part of a favourite tool or appliance? And, failing to locate that needed replacement part? Now, with our FabLab, you can 3D print your own replacement part! …
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ASK Salt Spring with Grow Local leaders, Polly Orr and Nick Jones, and Farmland Trust Director, Jon Cooksey

Eighteen joined this ASK Salt Spring gathering to welcome local food production advocates. While Grow Local leaders, Polly Orr and Nick Jones, and Farmland Trust Director, Jon Cooksey, led the conversation, the room was filled with other experts as well, including local growers, long-time local farm advocates, and even a local agronomist from the Ministry of Agriculture. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, reminding us that we were regrowing our relationship with the land when we produce and eat local foods, we began a rich conversation among local food enthusiasts. Throughout our two hours together, we explored the reasons that, despite our rich and abundant land, only 4%-6% of what we eat is grown locally. And, then we discussed practical ways that the local percentage of our daily food could increase, with a goal of at least 30% by 2030. While our conversation explored a number of seemingly overwhelming obstacles as well as practical solutions, many of which are in-…
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Cedars of Tuam Well runs low... again

The Cedars of Tuam community water system, which services 17 households along Roland Road at the South End, is once again in serious trouble due to drought. And the CRD, which took over operation of the system in 2005, is struggling to sort things out. Water was delivered to top up the reservoir last Friday, October 20 after the water level in the single well ran low and matters were complicated by long-standing issues with sand and grit. It seems that recent rains, at least prior to this week’s downpour, have done little to recharge the aquifer that feeds the well. CRD Director Gary Holman believes climate change is playing a role: “The well has always been marginal,” he said, “but the situation has been exacerbated by climate change.” He added that “it’s part of a broader drying trend in the region,” and that numerous private wells on the island have also been impacted. Supporting this observation are Water Service Commission meeting minutes stating “climate change note…
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ASK Salt Spring with BC Ferries’ President and CEO Nicolas Jimenez

A total of 32 joined us to welcome BC Ferries’ President and CEO Nicolas Jimenez to this ASK Salt Spring gathering. While possibly fewer participants than anticipated, everyone had a chance to ask their questions and participate in a rich and informative discussion with Nicolas. And, enjoy a wonderful carrot cake donated by our ever-generous Country Grocer. After his Territorial Acknowledgement, Nicolas told us that, while not a mariner, he is excited to be involved in a community of mariners. Aware that when he came into this job six months ago, the system was not at its finest, he brings optimism for what BC Ferries can become. A seasoned manager with 20 years in leadership roles at ICBC (including five as CEO), he brings a strong sense of reality and practical activism to BC Ferries’ challenges. Recognizing that there are no simple answers, he is committed to honestly telling us those things that BC Ferries should and will do as well as other things that BC Ferries should…
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ASK Salt Spring with CRD Director Gary Holman and Local Commissioners Brian Webster, Earl Rook, and Gayle Baker

Ten gathered for a conversation with our Electoral Director, Gary Holman, and Local Commissioners Brian Webster, Earl Rook, and Gayle Baker. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, a participant began by asking what was actually happening with reconciliation on Salt Spring. We learned from Gary that local governments are legally obligated to consult with First Nations on projects and initiatives. There have been a number of local opportunities for engagement, recently including the North Ganges Transportation Project on Rainbow and Lower Ganges Roads and the under-discussion Islands Trust Bylaw 530 proposing to legalize accessory dwelling units. First Nations engagement will also be undertaken regarding our proposed HarbourWalk. Gary reminded us that First Nations are being barraged by requests for engagement and are have very limited capacity to address all requests for collaboration. He also noted that the BC courts have recently been acknowledging First Nations’ rights in …
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Multiple crises require a coordinated, collaborative response from all legislators

As I look ahead to the next legislative session, the political landscape has changed with the emergence of the BC Conservatives as an official party in the British Columbia Legislative Assembly. However, many of the issues remain, and are lacking substantive solutions. This summer has been another season of extremes in British Columbia exposing the real threat of the climate crisis. Severe drought has set in across the province, and 2023 set the record as the most active and destructive wildfire season in the history of the province, pushing the capacity of our services, and the patience of British Columbians to the limit. At the same time the social fabric we have relied on for decades is stretched to the breaking point. The chronic lack of primary healthcare continues. The Saanich Peninsula Hospital emergency room has been forced to close overnight indefinitely because of a lack of doctors, and regional surgical units are shuttered. Gulf Island healthcare societies a…
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ASK Salt Spring with MLA Adam Olsen and Outreach Coordinator Laura Parker

Thirteen gathered to welcome MLA Adam Olsen and Outreach Coordinator Laura Parker to this ASK Salt Spring gathering in our new, quieter classroom location, thanks to the generosity of Transition Salt Spring and Restorative Justice. After his Territorial Acknowledgement, we discussed less willingness - and even tolerance - to let our children into our activities. Somewhat shielded from the noisy energy of youngsters outside our gathering room, we discussed the common separation of children from our adult activities. Unlike other cultures and generations, common practice is a distinct separation between children and adult activities. Adam shared his experience as a new parent soon after being elected in 2008. Welcoming daytime responsibility for his one-year-old son, Silas, Adam brought him and all his paraphernalia to his meetings. Initially receiving expressions of concern rather than welcome, Adam persisted. He soon recognized that many conversations that had been initially…
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Opinion: Part 2 - Should Salt Spring Ratepayers have a choice in the design and build of our New Fire Hall?

Fellow Ratepayers this a supplementary to the Opinion of September 13, 2023, here on the Exchange. We received our professional opinion of costs to duplicate the Village of Cumberland - Fire Hall on Friday, October 6, 2023. Before we get into it, please refer to Part 1 first which was submitted to the Exchange on September 13, 2023, for a recap and review. On September 14, 2023, the Salt Spring Island Fire Improvement District held a Town Hall to disclose the Budget for 2024, 5 Yr Strategic Plan and our Fire Chief provided an overview of the New Fire Hall Plan, 14 1/2 Months after the approval of a $13.7 Mil Budget by Referendum. Approximately 35 Residents/Guests were present. Due to the seating arrangements and no microphones in use, most in the room couldn’t hear a number of the speakers. As a Fire Board Trustee acting as Ratepayer Advocate, I stood up at the meeting to disclose the Merits of Plan B in 3 minutes, most couldn’t hear me. When I turned and spoke to…
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ASK Salt Spring invited Transition Salt Spring to present on the Salt Spring Island Climate Action Report 2023: A Wake-Up Call for Our Community

In our recent Ask Salt Spring gathering, 16 community members welcomed Transition Salt Spring (TSS) volunteers Bryan Young (Chair) and Mary Ackenhusen, who shared their findings on the Salt Spring Island Climate Action Report Card 2023/24. Their insights shed light on our community's critical challenges regarding climate change. Mary Ackenhusen began by welcoming everyone and setting the stage by reminding us of the significant groundwork TSS laid between 2019 and 2021 with the Climate Action Plan 2.0 (CAP). Mary underscored the importance of more than just having a plan; it's about putting it into practice and assessing its real impact. Bryan Young took a moment for a Territorial Acknowledgment, recognizing that Truth and Reconciliation Day serves as a reminder to learn more about the land we've settled on. He encouraged everyone to explore the rich history of the Indigenous Peoples of these lands and waters, pointing to the resources for people of settler ancestry on th…
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ASK Salt Spring discussing the Housing Council and local housing initiatives

Nine welcomed Robin Williams, new chair of the Housing Council, to this ASK Salt Spring gathering. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, Robin began by telling us what excites and delights him: lovingly renovating homes that others would demolish. He shared pictures of a home on Long Harbour with extremely serious foundation issues. After a complete renovation, including an extensive seismic upgrade - requiring lifting the home, digging 20 feet to bedrock to anchor the foundation, and backfilling the basement 15 feet - this home met all building codes and was ready to occupy. Pictures of the now-lovely home with charming additions were shared. Not an easy task, requiring 72 yards of concrete and five cement pours, Robin is pleased that his efforts to rescue this home proved fruitful. No stranger to building, he learned skills from his father and renovated his first home at the age of 17, soon moving to spearhead a multi-million dollar campus building at the age of 22. Havin…
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Opinion: Should Salt Spring ratepayers have a choice in the design and build of the new fire hall?

On June 30, 2022, Salt Spring Island ratepayers affirmed the Referendum to approve $13.7 million dollars to build a new long overdue Fire Hall under the proviso - “No New Taxes”. Depending on how you spin the numbers the return was 75% voted in favour, which sounds impressive. There were 7588 Ratepayers eligible to vote, of those 2608 voted in favour and 864 opposed, with 4,116 or 54.3% who simply chose not to Vote. Ultimately 34% of eligible ratepayers passed the referendum, not so impressive. At the regularly scheduled Meeting of the Fire Board on Monday, August 21, 2023, as a Fire Board Trustee, I attempted to introduce 2 motions (see addendum below) 1. Spend Ratepayers Taxes Wisely. 2. Allow Ratepayers to have a Choice between 2 Fire Hall Designs - Plan A and Plan B. Neither Motion received a Seconder so the Motions never reached the floor for discussion. Clearly, my 6 Fellow Trustees had discussed how they would treat the Motions prior to the Meeting. Let’s leave…
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ASK Salt Spring discussing the Farmland Trust, Grow Local, community composting and more

While the information we gained was rich, the turnout to welcome one of our newly-elected Local Community Commissioners (LCC), Brian Webster, was disappointing. After a heartfelt Territorial Acknowledgment, ending with appreciation for the inexplicable forgiveness by First Nations on this journey of reconciliation, we began our time together learning more about three of our most critical agricultural projects, composting, our abattoir, and the Root. Brian began by answering our traditional initial question of what excites and delights him by speaking briefly of his feelings about the onset of fall. For him, September has always been a time of mixed feelings: those of sadness at the end of warmth and verdant growth, balanced by the excitement and energy of harvest time. As a farmer and co-owner, manager, and apple picker of The Salt Spring Apple Company, these conflicting feelings are magnified. An admitted worrier, a summer of anxiety about whether the harvest will yield eno…
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