Fourteen joined us at this ASK Salt Spring gathering to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman, our Electoral Director as well as a member of the Local Community Commission (LCC) 5 member team. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, Gary began by speaking briefly about his pessimism regarding the reinstatement of the train between Victoria and Nanaimo along the route of the Esquimalt/Nanaimo (E&N) Railway (https://www.encrha.com/). He believes that, in addition to being a very efficient way to move folks, it also has great potential for freight, getting some of the heavy truck traffic off our roads. When one asked - What, trains are from the past?, some participants responded by saying Not true! Trains are a vital part of our future.
Gary’s disappointment stems from inaction by senior governments for years, leading up to a Supreme Court decision (https://www.timescolonist.com/local-news/court-ruling-leaves-door-open-for-federal-government-to-weigh-in-on-en-4692069) mandating that progress on reinstating the service be made within 18 moths or the land will be given back to First Nations. This 18 months has passed without the required progress. He believes that a number of First Nations, rightfully fed up after years of inaction, will demand return of their lands and that a rail line may be no longer viable.
We then shifted to the CRD proposal to improve the heavily used Lochside/Galloping Goose trail network (https://www.hellobc.com/stories/victorias-galloping-goose-and-lochside-regional-trails/), becoming congested with an estimated 4,000 users every day. The CRD Board decided at their recent August meeting to fund the needed improvements by borrowing up to $50 million.
Gary supports this CRD Regional Parks proposal in principal due to the significant use of the Regional Trail in Greater Victoria and because it would support a continued shift away from automobile use, reducing the region's GHG emissions and making a significant contribution to the CRD climate action goals. However, he is concerned that Salt Spring would receive no direct benefit from our portion of the carrying costs of the borrowed $50 million, adding to the half million dollars we are already taxed each year for CRD Regional Parks.
Salt Spring has historically benefitted from the Regional Parks service, with the purchase of the Mill Farm Park (https://www.crd.bc.ca/parks-recreation-culture/parks-trails/find-park-trail/mill-farm) in 1996, and again in 2001, when CRD purchased additional property in the Mt Bruce and Burgoyne area as part of the Salt Spring Appeal campaign to acquire Texada land. Since then, Salt Spring has enjoyed very little local benefit from this service.
Gary was quick to point out that Salt Spring has benefitted significantly from other CRD regional services, such as:
The ongoing subsidy that provides free recycling on Salt Spring;
The recent $3.7 million contribution to the new Lady Minto operating room;
And the millions in funding for affordable housing projects here, including Croftonbrook, the Cedars transition housing for women, and Murakami Gardens.
Gary is also a strong supporter of CRD's proposed $85 million borrowing to renew its successful Regional Housing First programs that provided about $4 million for the Croftonbrook project.
Nevertheless, Gary believes that regional services should provide at least some benefits to all participants, including electoral areas. It appears that Salt Spring cannot simply stop paying CRD Regional Parks the 100s of thousands of dollars we are assessed each year as this assessment is legislated, requiring a change in the law to get an exemption.
At the last CRD Board meeting,Gary proposed the $50 million Regional Trail borrowing be increased to $54 million, earmarking that $4 million for active transportation in electoral areas. It was narrowly defeated. Gary hopes to continue this advocacy by providing more a more detailed proposal during the fall budget talks.
One piece of good news is that CRD Regional Parks has allocated $250,000 in 2024 for initial Regional Trail planning and design. The CRD Regional Trail on Salt Spring, extending from Vesuvius to Fulford, is identified in the recently adopted CRD Regional Parks Plan (https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/crd-document-library/plans-reports/parks-recreation/crd-regional-parks-and-trails-strategic-plan-2022-2032-reduced.pdf). The CRD currently has prioritized the Vesuvius to Central portion of the Regional Trail route, which would complement Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s (MoTI) focus on the Fulford-Ganges portion of the route. However, there may be other portions of the route that may be more attractive to the CRD Board as a Regional Parks investment. This conversation is about to begin. . .stay tuned.
Still talking regional transportation, Gary is very concerned with an in-progress study by CRD to determine whether it should establish a Transportation Service or Authority to manage more, perhaps even all, transportation in the region, including public transit. Establishment of such a service would likely require an additional property tax levy, reinforcing the concerns regarding local benefits of regional services. The exact nature of this proposal and tax implications have to be clarified, but based on his current experience and understanding, Gary would prefer that it will be a subregional service, excluding electoral areas like Salt Spring, with its own stand-alone transit service, and provincially owned roads and ferry services that are unlikely to be included in a CRD transportation service.
Recently Local Commissioners completed a survey to get their opinion about this proposed regional transportation service. These answers have been compiled and will be discussed at the next LCC meeting, 9:00 a.m. Thursday, August 22, in the SIMS (former Middle School) Boardroom.
We also took a moment to celebrate good news for many Salt Springers: Ganges will get its requested 30 km/h speed limit, with signs expected to be posted by the end of August! Beginning with a well-supported petition circulated by Myna Lee Johnstone and read in the Legislature by MLA Adam Olsen some years ago, this speed reduction has also been supported by many others, including:
Our former Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) area manager,
Gary, and now dissolved CRD Transportation Commission,
The Ganges Active Transportation Network Plan (https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/crd-document-library/plans-reports/planning-development/salt-spring-island-active-transportation-network-plan.pdf), and
Our new LCC.
Beyond the clearly-documented safety benefits of this speed reduction, it is welcomed by many as a heartening signal that MoTI is listening to us and willing to support our local transportation priorities with action, including strong technical and professional support.
Continuing our discussion regarding regional transportation, a participant spoke the possibility of changing the composition and organisation of the Salt Spring Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) (https://facchairs.com/fac/saltspring/). Currently a 10-member organization reporting to BC Ferries, this participant would like it to be reconstituted as a subcommittee of the LCC.
This participant cited an example of a locally managed FAC on Bowen Island. As this conversation concluded, he promised to get more information about the Bowen Island FAC and bring a proposal to the LCC for their consideration.
Gary welcomes LCC advocacy regarding ferries, but he pointed out that the Bowen FAC is not a sub-committee of the Bowen municipality, but rather a municipal sub-committee that liaises with the FAC. Why not simply have the LCC advocate directly to the FAC rather than through a sub-committee?
Gary also reminded us that there has been some progress concerning our ferry service to which our Salt Spring FAC has contributed:
The replacement of the Quinitsa with the much larger Quinsam at Vesuvius and two additional sailings on the Fulford route have already helped somewhat with congestion at that these terminals.
BC Ferries recommendations to the Ferry Commissioner (https://saltspringexchange.com/2022/10/26/bc-ferries-four-year-plan-open-for-public-feedback-for-changes-on-salt-spring-island/), expected to be approved this fall, will result in major terminal improvements and a two ferry hybrid electric system at Vesuvius in 2027. Once the hybrid electrics arrive at Vesuvius (offering the potential for fully electric ferry operation once shore power can be installed), the Quinsam will then be deployed to Fulford during the summer season, which along with the Skeena.
Gary also cited the $500 million recently allocated by the province to keep ferry fares stable (https://www.vicnews.com/news/b-c-investing-500m-to-electrify-bc-ferries-fleet-keep-fares-steady-111596), in his opinion, an extremely significant commitment to keeping our marine highway affordable.
Finally, Gary reminded this participant that while coordinated advocacy regarding our ferry service would be helpful, the delegated authority of the LCC over the transportation service points to its most important role - the improvement of pedestrian and cycling safety infrastructure in our local ferry terminals.
Amazing Willie MacPherson, wearing his Community Services hat, joined us briefly. He came to tell us about a local event Thursday, August 31 1-5, in Centennial Park. To honour National Overdose Awareness Day, Community Services is working with community partners to offer an opportunity to begin that painful and frightening conversation about drug overdoses in our community - and even in our families. Willie is in recovery and spoke with passion about the needs for that conversation in a safe circle, telling us that We are more resilient than our grief.
This conversation is made even more difficult by the complexities of the dialogue about harm reduction (https://harmreduction.org/about-us/principles-of-harm-reduction/). It is Willie’s belief that safe drug use, clean supplies and the commitment to never use alone may not be the abstinence many prefer, but it is still an important step toward reducing the stigma and shame for those who do use in our community
Aware that these difficult conversations may trigger complex and frightening reactions for some, Willie has reached our newly minted Goodwill Ambassadors to join the conversation and support as needed. Want to know more? Please contact Shea Houston (youth alcohol and drug counselor at SSICS firstname.lastname@example.org), Karma Leroux (Moms Stop The Harm email@example.com), or Willie MacPherson (housing outreach working SSICS firstname.lastname@example.org)
As 1:00 was approaching, Gary provided a quick update of Salt Spring’s efforts to be included in the Speculation and Vacancy Tax (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/speculation-vacancy-tax).While our community does not unanimously support this tax, some fearing an end to that long tradition of urbanites purchasing a seasonal home on Salt Spring, the explosion of our property values in recent years appears to be partly due to the fact that investment capital is flowing to untaxed areas. Experience in other jurisdictions where the tax applies (including all 13 municipalities in the CRD) also indicates that the tax is resulting in some increase in the rental or ownership housing stock.
As many might recall, the CRD Board, at Gary's request, formally asked for inclusion in the Speculation and Vacancy Tax to reduce the number of homes in our community that are vacant or used only as tourist accommodations. Salt Spring was not included in the list of communities recently added, but responses from the BC Finance Minister to the CRD indicate that the province is not absolutely opposed to Salt Spring’s inclusion if certain criteria are met. Gary is working with MLA Olsen and Trustee Patrick on a response to the province summarizing how Salt Spring meets these criteria.
Finally, Gary briefly expressed a cautionary view of public statements by the Trust regarding the possible transfer of the Salt Spring Island Water Protection Alliance (SSIWPA) to CRD, and by NSSWD regarding its proposal to contract CRD bylaw services with respect to the Water District's water conservation restrictions - such steps will require much more discussion and due diligence.
A participant gave us some breaking news about our Housing Council; a non-profit society established over a decade ago as a result of recommendations in the CRD’s 2011 Salt Spring Island Community Housing Affordable Housing Strategy. The Housing Council’s Board has decided its future direction lies in emulating the Whistler Housing Authority model to secure financing to build, sell, and rent workforce housing. The Housing Council will soon be recruiting additional board members with expertise in these areas. And, leading the charge is newly-elected Chair: Robin A. Williams. Stay tuned for action.
Time to leave, we all thanked Gary for being with us the second Friday of every month, telling us what is on his mind, listening, and working so hard to address those issues that mean so much to us. (Thanks, Gary!) Now a member of the LCC Team, other Local Commissioners will soon begin to take the spotlight, with Brian Webster scheduled to be our special guest Friday, September 8: Earl Rook, October 13; Ben Corno, November 10; and Gary, December 8.
Please join us this Friday, August 18, 11-1, in the SIMS (former Middle School) Courtyard for a respectful discussion of something in the news quite a bit these days: Ganges Parking!
With booming Saturday and Tuesday Markets, seemingly so many more people are visiting here than a decade ago. Also, the just-released Ganges Active Transportation Network Plan (https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/crd-document-library/plans-reports/planning-development/salt-spring-island-active-transportation-network-plan.pdf), suggests that improving cycling and pedestrian accessibility will impact some parking spaces but makes recommendations to mitigate these impacts.
The parking topic is hot and everyone has an opinion.
What would you like to know?
Who owns our parking lots?
Who manages them?
Why don’t we have parking enforcement?
Is it okay for folks for go on a holiday in a seaplane and leave their car for days?
What about campers staying for long periods in our village?
What are the recommendations of the Ganges Active Transportation Network Plan, and how many parking spaces could we lose?
What are our options?
Please come Friday, August 18, 11-1 in the SIMS Courtyard to share your opinion, listen to those of others, and begin to work together as a community to seek solutions.
Hope to see you there!
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.
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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!