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  • Gayle Baker

Is the Canadian Dream of Homeownership Dead for Many of Our Youth?

October 6

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 focused on short-term goals shifted when others caught sight of Silas, subtly changing the conversation to a more long-term focus. As a participant said, The decisions we make today define the future of our children.


Adam shared the story of an elder who recalled working as a child with his parents who were clam digging. The children’s job was to carry rock after rock to create the walls for the rich clam beds and lush ecosystems that once proliferated on our islands. (One, an 800 metre clam wall, can still be seen at low tide in Fulford Harbour.) While these beds have been ignored, most now dead, work is underway by Parks Canada and the WSANEC Leadership Council to regenerate the unbelievable richness of a clam bed on Russell Island and elsewhere in the Salish Sea.


Only a few generations ago, children, especially those in rural settings, worked alongside their parents, often living their entire lives in multi-generational homes. Since World War II, that narrative has changed. That dream of home ownership was greatly-expanded after the War when housing developments and inexpensive land (often on First Nations’ land) proliferated, and the Canadian economy used home sales as its index of economic vitality. Now, Adam believes that home ownership has become the criteria for success. Adult children living at home are too often considered to be failures.


Adam reminded us that this divide between wealth and poverty is not new to him: While wealth for many Canadians was generated through the buying and selling of real estate, those on reserves could not sell their property to amass wealth. This changed slightly in 2008 when the Harper administration declared that those on reserves with a Certificate of Possession could apply for a mortgage as long as the reserve backed this loan. These loans allowed Adam and others to build a home to accommodate multiple branches of his family. Although he cannot sell this home to any but a very limited number of family, Adam takes pride in knowing that his two children will always have a home, something few parents today can promise.


That dream of home ownership is no longer achievable for generations of Canadians. Instead, too many cannot afford any safe, warm place to call home. Without this promise, Adam sees a culture of fear and instability emerging, replacing one of safety and security. In his opinion, without this sense of belonging, agitation and fear make virtually all of the other governing decisions challenging.

While co-operative living may be a solution, these arrangements are challenged by zoning restrictions as well as conflict with our much-lauded rugged individualism. Should we consider replacing our exclusionary zoning with a zoning that seeks the highest possible use for our land? What about landowners committing to ask for the rent they need rather than the most they can get? What about shaking things up a bit to find solutions - like using SIMS for housing rather than recreation? These ideas were offered by the participants - many good ones, but each with complexities and a full range of unintended consequences.


Clearly aware of a culture war raging in our community requiring as yet unidentified collaborative solutions, many were glad to shift gears to our favourite uniting issue: concern over BC ferries. Noting that Nicholas Jimenez, CEO/President of BC Ferries (https://www.timescolonist.com/business/head-of-icbc-takes-over-as-president-of-bc-ferries-6390579) will be our special ASK Salt Spring guest October 20, 11-1, Lions Hall, Adam reminded us that sailing cancellations are in-part the result of Transport Canada safety regulations requiring BC Ferries to have a defined number of employees for each sailing. If only one employee is missing, that sailing must be cancelled or postponed until staff is in place.


In Adam’s opinion, fining BC Ferries (https://globalnews.ca/news/10002015/bc-ferries-fined-missed-sailings-crew-shortages/#) for missed sailing will not be particularly helpful. That fine - approximately $7,000 for a major route - is nothing compared to the wages paid to the crew on the cancelled trip. Also, Adam feels that it is not the solution for Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Rob Fleming, to impose the fine, using his authority without any responsibility to find solutions.


Instead, Adam would like to see a deep dive into BC Ferries training and hiring practices, also including an analysis of ship-based/management ratios. In his opinion, some of the problem began when the Liberals changed the governance structure of the operation. He encouraged an emphasis upon training for entry-level employees that offer a clear path toward higher-paying positions aa well as higher BC Ferries salaries to make them more competitive marine operators.


With this vulnerability originating from a lack of training and pathways for promotion, BC Ferries was unprepared for the perfect storms of COVID and our housing shortages, rendering it even more difficult for them to hire, train, house, promote, and retain their employees.


As 1:00 was approaching, our final conversational thread of this gathering was health. Adam was asked about an October 26 forum entitled Our Healthcare Crisis and What We Can Do Right Now: (https://www.bcgreens.ca/voices_of_saanich_the_islands_the_healthcare_crisis_what_we_can_do_right_now). We learned that this forum will focus on Shoreline Medical (https://shorelinemedical.ca/about-us/), a society providing community health services striving to be team-based primary care.


A participant asked Adam whether he was suggesting Salt Spring mirror this healthcare model. While enthusiastic about Shoreline’s progress establishing a team-based community health clinic, he reminded us that each of our island communities has markedly-different healthcare systems adapted to unique needs. He suggested, instead, a strong message to Minister Adrian Dix: Not all good ideas come from his office. Many of the best ideas come from communities. Community-based decision-making - rather than top down ones - are desperately-needed.


Just before we left, Adam briefly touched upon his process for assessing the opinions of our community. Rather than depending solely upon surveys and polls - too often based upon a limited number of participants - he listens and reads: thousands of emails, countless conversations with residents and elected officials, and attendance at many events much like this ASK Salt Spring gathering. Charged with representing 50,000 residents, Adam takes his responsibility to listen and learn from us very seriously. With applause for his hard work, willingness to always listen, offering of his unique perspective, and introduction of a refreshing level of complexity to our conversations the first Friday of every month, we all expressed our appreciation. (Thanks, Adam and Laura!)


Do you want to talk about the 2024 CRD Budget. . .or anything else related to our new Local Community Commission (LCC)? LocalCommissioners will be our special guests at ASK Salt Spring this Friday, October 13,11-1, in SIMS (former Middle School) classroom next to the boardroom.*


What would you like to ask them?

  • What is your biggest concern about our proposed 2024 CRD Budget?

  • What input did you have that you believe will make a significant difference in this budget?

  • How did the budget process- the first for our new LCC - work for you?

  • Would you change anything next year? What?

  • What would you like to accomplish in 2024?

  • And?

Please join us this Friday to welcome our Local Commissioners!


*Community Generosity Reigns Again! -

ASK Salt Spring has a new (quieter) home, the classroom just beyond the offices and boardroom at SIMS. Enter through the Lobby, proceed to your right to the offices, turn right again past the boardroom, and enter the next room.


Transition Salt Spring (TSS) and Restorative Justice (RJ) have graciously welcomed ASK Salt Spring to use their lovely space on Fridays. (A grateful thank you to TSS and RJ!)


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 questions, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com

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

monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings? Asksaltspring.com.


Want to listen to interviews of our special guests?ASK Salt Spring Answered


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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