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  • Gayle Baker

An Optimistic Chamber of Commerce Dives into Projects to Enhance Ganges Vitality

July 28

Only seven joined us this week to welcome Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce’s ( Operations Manager, Alexander Fischer-Jean to this ASK Salt Spring gathering. It was good news that throngs did not come hoping to see MP Elizabeth May and disappointed that she is, very wisely, prioritizing her health.

Sometimes the best conversations take place when the atmosphere is at that casual level only possible with a very small group. So - while we do hope many more of you will come to welcome MLA Adam Olsen this Friday, August 4, we appreciated those who were there and everyone’s part in a rich conversation.

After our Territorial Acknowledgement, Alexander began by telling us about the Chamber’s commitment to revitalizing our village through projects (like the murals), events (like the recent Home and Garden Show), and support of programs (like the Ambassador Program.) When asked to tell us about things that excite and delight him, he immediately responded by sharing his joy that we seem to be recovering from the ravages of COVID and the devastating impacts it had upon our community and our businesses.

One project Alexander highlighted was Housing NOW, A Southern Gulf Islands’ Housing Registry, ( Made possible by a grant given to the Southern Gulf Islands Resource Centre (, this program has been up and running in all the Southern Gulf Islands for over a year. It has taken Salt Spring a bit longer, reportedly, because efforts to find a local sponsor for this initiative languished, largely due to the heavy workloads of our housing leaders. Currently, Housing NOW staff and the Chamber are in conversations, and it appears that Salt Spring will soon also have this new service.

So. . .what will it offer Salt Spring? The quick answer is that it will create both a portal and an in person contact to connect homeowners and renters. Some of these relationships will be the more typical landlord/tenant agreements; others will be home sharing agreements in which the renter may perform services, such as household and/or landscape chores, for a reduction in rent.

Seeking to meet the needs of all, this program is designed to be flexible and open to a variety of options. Want to sign up: Want to learn more first? You will have the chance to ask all your questions at ASK Salt Spring Friday, September 22, 11-1, in the SIMS Lobby when Housing NOW’s Janey Rowland joins us.

When Alexander used the example of a large home on the Housing NOW registry that could accommodate a number of renters, the conversation quickly shifted to housing, bylaws, enforcement, and the questions flew:

Many ideas - but none of us were sure if our land use bylaws support creative co-living options. Some participants wondered if we could ever (legally) get back to that eclectic community where our housing inventory met the needs of our worker residents rather than attracting wealthy new residents.

Note: Upon follow up with Islands Trust, it was learned that the Official Community Plan (OCP) contains many supportive policies and objectives for an eclectic community. An example of this is section: 4.4.3 To recognize the strength and exceptional value of the community's diverse human population - a population characterized by people of many ages and backgrounds who, through choice or circumstance, have a rich variety of lifestyles and livelihoods. To recognize the very real, if intangible, loss that is felt in the community when this diversity is diminished by external pressures and changes.

Islands Trustees are aware that our land use Bylaw 355 is overdue for an update and has prioritized a focused review of both the OCP and update of this voluminous bylaw. Naturally, our community will have the opportunity to participate and affect the outcome of this review.

Some frustration was expressed by a builder at the added complexity of an Island Trust review before a building permit is approved. Not understanding the purpose of this added hurdle, the sentiment was expressed that the Islands Trust already has plenty to do and need not to take on even more tasks.

Note: Upon follow up, it was learned that the CRD Building Department implemented the requirement for the Islands Trust to review building permits to insure conformance with our land use bylaws.

Lots of questions; Too few answers. . . .

And, of course, water is a consistent conversation when the topic is housing. While full-time rental cottages are required to add water catchment, new single-family homes are not – does this make sense? The provincial regulations, like the Drinking Water Protection regulations ( and the Sustainable Water Act (, along with Island Health requirements, are making servicing of the water needs of residential homes, accessory dwelling units, and multi-family housing more challenging and costly.

Moving away from housing frustrations, we focused on garbage. Responding to consistent requests from Ganges businesses for garbage receptacles, the Chamber stepped forward, purchasing two robust receptacles. Using CRD Grant-in-Aid funding for initial costs, the intent is to pay for their servicing though funds generated by the advertising on these receptacles.

Where will they be? Good question. . . . While enthusiastic, no businesses want them in front of their shops, fearful that they will overflow with household garbage. What about next to the well-used handcrafted benches (Thanks, Donald McLennan!) across the street from TJ Beans? Unfortunately, even this option is a bit complicated as a new application has to be made to the Ministry to place them there.

Keep watching: These receptacles will - eventually - find a village home and be ready to use. . . .

Alexander then spoke briefly of his pride at the Chamber’s role supporting the new Ambassador Program ( Wearing green vests, our new Ambassadors can be seen walking about our village, chatting with business owners and those enjoying Ganges. Determined to bring back that smile to our village, initial feedback has been wonderful. While most Ambassadors walkabout on weekdays, Ambassadors were also out last Saturday answering questions and helping folks find parking. Interested in learning more or becoming an Ambassador? Email:

Alexander spoke with deep appreciation of our wonderful Visitor Centre volunteers, some having been essential wayfinders for both visitors and residents for over a quarter of a century. (Thanks to all - especially longtime volunteers Laura Moore & Lynne Fraser!) While volunteer numbers have not gotten back to pre-COVID days and hours are limited, the tireless work of these enthusiastic volunteers help countless visitors and locals each year. We learned that, during the off season, a large percentage of the questions are posed by locals. With a provincial move to rename Tourist Information Centres, it is possible that our centre will soon be dubbed the Information Centre.

As 1:00 was fast-approaching, we briefly-discussed the eventual community use of the current firehall (expected to become a community-run amenity by fall 2024.) While current thoughts are to turn it into a year ‘round farmers’ market, some believe that this recommendation may have been reached without a fulsome community engagement process. Of course, given Alexander’s enthusiastic support of the Chamber, he thinks that it would make a superb site for an Information Centre. Stay tuned on that conversation. . . .

As 1:00 had arrived, we thanked Alexander for his hard work, enthusiasm for all things Salt Spring, his willingness to do the work to make good things happen, and his openness to new ideas. (Thanks to Alexander and all Chamber Directors!)

Please join us to welcome MLA Adam Olsen Friday, August 4, 11-1, in the SIMS (former Middle School) Courtyard.

What would you like to ask him?

  • As our summer is drawing to a close and your legislative session will begin soon, what are you most proud of accomplishing this summer?

  • What do you see as immediate legislative actions when the fall session begins?

  • Can you give us an idea about the new housing legislation that is reported to be a priority?

  • How do you think this new housing legislation will impact Salt Spring?

  • Do you know when the new list of communities charging the Speculation and Vacancy Tax will be announced? Do you think Salt Spring will be on that list?

  • How do you propose to work with our Local Community Commission?

  • And?

Hope to see you Friday, August 4, 11-1, in the SIMS Courtyard to welcome Adam!

Big News:

ASK Salt Spring now has ongoing funding! A heartfelt THANK-YOU to the Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA) and its Executive Director, Peter Allen !!!

***New fundraising option***

You can now give the Return It change you earn from your bottles to ASK Salt Spring: Account #230.

Any question, anytime:

Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings and

monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings?

Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We love your receipts! Remember: #15

Our Partners. . . .

Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA), Country Grocer through Save-a-Tape and Gift Cards and Island Savings’ Simple Generosity grant.

A heartfelt Thank-You!

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