Twelve came to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman to this ASK Salt Spring gathering. In his Territorial Acknowledgement, Gary noted that the land back movement in BC is growing, and there are more examples of publicly-owned land either being given back or being co-managed by First Nations. He noted that First Nations co-management of CRD Regional Park lands are being discussed by the CRD Board, but Gary believes that some legislative hurdles may first have to be addressed.
The CRD Board has offered an open invitation to First Nations to join its various committees, but this invitation has not yet been taken up to any significant degree. In Gary’s opinion, the CRD should also be placing some emphasis on equitable access to CRD services, for example free recycling or regional district funding for affordable housing.
Gary spoke briefly about the Alternate Approval Process (AAP or counter petition) that will soon be initiated on Salt Spring for the region-wide borrowing of up to $85 million for housing as partnering opportunities arise: (https://www.crd.bc.ca/about/news/article/2023/06/02/crd-to-increase-borrowing-authority-for-housing). Municipalities can approve this borrowing by council consent, but an AAP is required for Salt Spring and the two other electoral areas within the CRD. If 10% of registered voters in an electoral area sign a counter-petition opposing this referendum, it fails in that community. However, as a regional initiative, only 11 of the 16 communities are required to approve the borrowing, so even if Salt Springers reject the proposal, it may still pass.
Gary hopes Salt Springers will support the borrowing (i.e., don’t sign the counter-petition) because he believes it is the single most important action the CRD can take to build new affordable housing. It is also a good deal as the cost to the average residential property on Salt Spring would be less than $2.50 per month. It may also bring us millions of dollars more funding for. local affordable housing projects. Salt Spring has already been successful in accessing CRD regional housing funds for Croftonbrook (approximately $4 million), Cedars (https://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2017/schl-cmhc/NH15-722-2015-eng.pdf), Murakami Gardens, and Brackett Springs (later withdrawn). Gary has hopes that, if this borrowing is approved, some of the five Salt Spring properties offering the potential for affordable local rentals can secure a share of this funding if the borrowing is approved.
While Salt Spring has done well securing CRD housing funding, CRD Regional Parks (which funds regional trails) is an example in which Salt Spring does not receive a fair return on its tax dollars. While the CRD Parks funding has protected roughly 1,000 acres on Salt Spring in the Mt. Bruce area, infrastructure funding in regional parks and on the regional trails has has focused on Greater Victoria rather than the Gulf Islands. This focus has nothing to do with whether Salt Spring is incorporated or not, but rather the concentration of park and trail users.
CRD is also considering $14 million borrowing referendum (likely also an Alternate Approval Process) for Regional Parks to widen the most congested portions of the Galloping Goose with thousands of users per day (https://www.timescolonist.com/local-news/crd-to-explore-tax-levy-for-widening-and-lighting-galloping-goose-lochside-7087819). Just as with the in-progress Housing AAP, were Salt Springs to oppose this borrowing referendum, it would still have a high likelihood of passing.
Gary believes the Galloping Goose borrowing is also a good investment to get people out of their cars and to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. When asked if some of this proposed borrowing could be spent on the Salt. Spring portion of the Salish Sea Trail (Vesuvius to Fulford), the only gap in the popular cycling and pedestrian loop of which the Galloping Goose is a part, Gary was doubtful. He did, however, promise to further pursue this possibility. It was suggested that he propose that an extra million dollars of the proposed $14 million be allocated to Salt Spring. While this million dollars is only a small portion of what is needed to complete the cycling/pedestrian trail from Vesuvius to Fulford, it could be used to fund necessary preliminary work, like shovel-ready designs. Stay tuned. . .
While Salt Spring may not get its fair share of some regional services, like CRD Parks, Gary also reminded us that, in addition to housing, Salt Spring has benefitted greatly from CRD funding for our recycling depot, so the issue of benefits and costs of regional services is not a simple one.
Concerning regional services, Gary and other CRD Directors were able to avoid participation in a Regional Arts Facility Service, again focused on Victoria facilities (e.g., the Royal and McPherson Theatres) with little direct benefit to Salt Spring.
A bit later in our conversation, Gary quizzed us, asking us to identify the most important transportation news for Salt Spring. We all suggested some possibilities, but in his opinion, it is the $500 million allocated to BC Ferries to stabilize ferry rates (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-ferries-funding-500-million-1.6761155), a funding announcement that has gone largely unnoticed.
Gary then spoke briefly about last week’s other good transportation news (https://www.saltspringcommunityalliance.org/post/a-party-in-the-meadow-to-welcome-minister-of-transportation-and-infrastructure-rob-fleming-and-staff). He did note that years ago, when the Salt Spring Transportation service was created, it was decided that the focus for limited CRD dollars for pathways and sidewalks be focused in our villages, and that bike lanes from Vesuvius to Fulford should be the responsibility of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI), and, more recently, the CRD Regional Parks trail initiative.
In Gary’s view, the recently-released MoTI recommendations of the Cycling Safety Study (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/driving-and-transportation/reports-and-reference/reports-and-studies/vancouver-island-south-coast/2023-04-21_salt_spring_island_cycling_safety_review.pdf) re-affirms this strategy. He anticipates that the soon to be released Ganges Active Transportation Plan commissioned by our former Transportation Commission will also support this focus. He plans to raise this issue with the new Local Community Commission (LCC) to ensure that we continue progress on pedestrian/cycling infrastructure in Ganges.
Gary does believe that our LCC can be effective advocates with MoTI for road safety concerns. What if, rather than the multitude of requests to MoTI from Salt Springers each month, requests to MoTI were, instead, received by the LCC and prioritized? Gary believes that we can be more effective if islanders focus their advocacy on priorities through the LCC rather than directly to MoTI. While logic supports advocating with one voice, will Salt Springers continue to prefer to lobby independently?
Gary spoke briefly of his recent concerns about an LCC orientation and priority-setting Request for Proposal that was released before the newly-elected Local Commissioners reviewed it. At a recent special meeting of the CRD Board (https://crd.ca.granicus.com/player/clip/2712?view_id=1&redirect=true&h=a3df30a528e79c8226c88848deb9664f), Gary was successful deferring this $10,000 spending decision until the LCC has begun meeting.
Concerning the LCC, set to have its first meeting Tuesday, June 20, at 9:00 am in the SIMS Boardroom, Gary also acknowledged that, regarding the three LCC advisory responsibilities (our Library, Search and Rescue, and the Arts) the LCC recommendations will be given directly to the CRD Board, and he will support their recommendations. Gary also reaffirmed his view that the authority of the LCC should be broadened and that these three contribution services should be among the first to be added to the LCC’s delegated authority.
A participant asked Gary for details about the $3.74 million given to the construction of the Lady Minto Hospital emergency room by the Capital Region Hospital District (CRHD). He asked what formal agreements had been made concerning this funding - specifically, what happens if the new facility cannot be staffed? Fearing another Save Our Surgery (SOS) debacle (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/saltspring-islanders-struggle-to-prevent-shutdown-of-operating-room/article560016/), a $2 million Capital Regional Hospital District (CRHD) investment that also used hundreds of thousands of dollars of local Lady Minto Hospital Foundation. funding, this participant wanted assurance that this unfortunate Salt Spring chapter would not be repeated.
Gary promised to try to find written commitment concerning the CRHD investment However, he does not believe this is a legal commitment, and it is his inclination to wait until there is an indication of problem before sounding the alarm. He is also hopeful that the work Lady Minto Hospital, its Foundation, and Islands Health are doing to help potential employees find housing (https://www.saltspringcommunityalliance.org/post/erin-navigating-challenges-and-changes-at-lady-minto-hospital-with-courage-and-enthusiasm) will go far toward addressing the healthcare housing issue, which has been an impediment to attracting health workers.
While the doctor shortage is still a major concern for Salt Spring, we did learn from Gary that apparently Lady Minto Hospital has recently hired a number of nurses. He also spoke of some progress in initiating a local Primary Care Network, which could bring more health resources. We learned that the Salt Spring Health Society has recently received some good news concerning their challenge to fund a mobile care unit.
While encouraging, this was simply not enough for this participant, who told us that our health care services were among the most important of our economic drivers and should be a top priority for the LCC to address. This participant reminded us that he, like many others, chose Salt Spring because of its health services and could not stay were they to be severely reduced.
While Gary agrees that health matters may require LCC advocacy, he reminded us that health is a provincial responsibility and that our local MLA should be our key advocate. While he agrees that adequate health facilities are essential for our community, Gary does not believe that the CRD economic development service allows for funding of health care services.
The economic development service could, however, play a role in helping to support worker housing, a clear benefit to our health care workers in addition to the progress already being done by Island Health and the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation to provide housing, including the purchase and pending renovation of the Seabreeze Inne.
While this economic development service already offers a range of funding opportunities, Gary believes that the bylaw for economic development should be expanded to its legislative limits to allow for as many services as possible that help support the socio-economic health of our community. This will soon likely be a topic of discussion for the LCC.
Gary shared his opinion that the LCC should discuss the prudent use of debt. He noted that, by 2026, island-wide CRD services on Salt Spring will be virtually debt-free. For example, the pool debt has now been retired, and the debt for the Library and our liquid waste facility in Burgoyne will be almost fully paid down in two years.
While this very good news, he is also painfully aware of aging infrastructure, including very expensive concerns about the integrity of the pool building, that will require significant expenditures. Additionally there are community priorities like the use of the current firehall property, the long-delayed HarbourWalk, Centennial Park boardwalk and the improvement priorities for both the Rainbow Road and Portlock parks properties.
To address these required maintenance projects as well as new initiatives, Gary believes the LCC should consider how prudent debt financing could play a role in funding our aging infrastructure and possible new amenities. He also reminded us that, in some cases, infrastructure investments can yield significant maintenance and operating cost savings. For example, an investment in dewatering and local disposition of our liquid waste, currently being shipped off-island at a cost of over $500,000 every year, is an example of how such investments can be self-financing.
A participant suggested that all CRD expenditures should be analyzed by identifying beneficiaries and cost per beneficiary. Gary (who is an economist) agrees that any funding conversation should include, but not be restricted to, such considerations. He reminded us that some services, such as the pool, the library, and public transit are essential in any community committed to meeting the needs of all.
As our time together was drawing to a close, we learned a bit about the soon-to-be launched Ambassador Program, ASK Salt Spring’s special guests Friday, June 23, 11-1, in the SIMS Lobby. We also learned about other Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce initiatives, including newly-acquired responsibility for the bus shelter near the Visitors’ Centre; the expanded role of our Visitors’ Centre as a local information hub; efforts toward beautification, very visually-illustrated by our new murals; and progress getting a Housing Now (https://www.sgicommunityresources.ca/housing-now-home/) program to Salt Spring. Gary acknowledged the Chamber and its successful efforts as active collaborators addressing issues, especially in Ganges. He stated his hope that the CRD funding which helped support some of these projects will be continued on an ongoing basis through its economic development service.
As we prepared to leave, we thanked Gary for spending time with us each month, giving us the information we need about our most important issues, working so hard, listening, and establishing important connections with all of us. (Thank-you, Gary!)
Please join us this Friday, June 16, 11-1, in the Lobby of SIMS (former Middle School) to welcome Transition Salt Spring Board member Kelda Logan, Chair Bryan Young, and Program Manager, Darlene Gage.
What would you like to ask them?
What have been your greatest success since the Climate Action Plan 2.0 was released several years ago?
What have been your greatest challenges?
What are your most exciting current projects?
A report card of local climate action successes and failures will soon be released. Can you give us a sneak preview?
Can you describe what you would like to see accomplished by 2026?
Please join us to welcome Kelda, Bryan, and Darlene this Friday, June 16!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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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!