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  • Gayle Baker

MLA Adam Olsen Addresses Live Aboard's Fears and Safety Referendum Opposition

December 6:

Adam Olsen came to answer question and the room was full most of the time, with standing- room-only for brief portions. A total of 26 Salt Springers came to ask him questions. Main topics of the day were a brief focus on roads, the suggestion that Islands Trust should be reformed, concerns expressed by live aboard boaters in the harbour fearful of being towed, daylight savings legislation, the scarcity of early childhood educators, and the soon-to-be available green burial cemetery on Salt Spring. Despite these many widely-different questions, the topic that many had come to discuss was the legality and legitimacy of the Alternate Approval Process.

The discussion began with on-going concerns with too much, too fast traffic on Leisure Lane/Kings Lane. Some solutions were presented, such as the option of traffic calming humps that are designed so that they do not interfere with emergency vehicles’ need to get to their destination with speed. The conversation veered to the speed humps on Beddis Road and the strange situation that this portion of a major road seems to belong to the landowner rather than the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI). Interestingly, it was noted that MoTI does pave the road - seemingly placing the landowner in the perfect position of ownership with no responsibility.

The danger of walking on our roads - with LaPage as an example - was briefly discussed, with a reminder to wear reflective gear whenever walking in the dark or twilight. (Jessica will follow-up with the Lions to see if we can get free reflective arm bands to give to walkers.) The roads portion of the conversation ended with some levity when one suggested the residents of King’s Lane get one of our fine Salt Spring artists to paint a very large, very real-looking pothole in the middle of the lane.

On the subject of reformation of Islands Trust, the guest reiterated perceived problems with getting things done due to Islands Trust processes, including affordable housing, the many months it took to get a permit for the laundromat, and the power of North Salt Spring Waterworks to impede needed affordable housing. The guest pointed out that these problems are shared by all Gulf Islanders.

Adam pointed out that having a city hall does not necessarily make things better or easier. Adam told us that Islands Trust is in a process of making 10 changes but did point out that these changes are not significant structural changes. He commented that Islands Trust does very well in some areas but not so well in its mandate to “preserve and protect” in other areas, such as logging on private land.

He suggested that what is needed is a complete community plan so that Salt Springers can all agree to determine how our community - with finite resources - can provide what it needs to be successful. Without this central vision (he noted that Saanich is also fractured) Salt Spring cannot move forward successfully. The possibility of a revised Official Community Plan with measurable objectives that focused on the entire community (including services) rather than just Islands Trust issues was briefly mentioned.

He suggested that the individual intent upon reforming the Islands Trust work with Salt Springers and the Islands Trust to come up with a plan to which all can agree and, only then, involve the province in these discussions.

Six came to voice their opposition to the process of the Alternate Approval Process. It was noted that 10% is a very high bar as, in a normal election, only a small percentage vote. Shouldn’t this be taken into consideration by requiring either a smaller percentage or 10% of the average number of voters over the past few elections rather than 10% of all total possible voters? It was noted that concerns about this alternate approval process has been voiced all over the province and that it “mystifies” what should be an open, democratic process. It was also noted that information about the process was confusing, with initial information stating that the form could be submitted online with no reference to paper copies.

Adam reminded us that he had used the alternate approval process for a community centre and that, more recently, it was used to fund the Saanich Fire Hall. Both times the process was controversial. But, despite the controversy, it is a legislative process defined in the Community Charter, updated in 2003, and found in Chapter 26, Part 4, Division 2, Section 86. When asked about its legality, he suggested concerned citizens speak with a lawyer. From a legislative perspective, he admitted that he had no idea whether there is any interest in reviewing this law allowing an alternate process to approve taxation.

He noted that the CRD Director has limited options to fund initiatives. While he/she could use a Grant-in-Aid to fund a needed program, this funding is neither long-term nor is it democratically-decided. A referendum is clearly a more democratic process for funding a program or service.

He stated that he was not here to debate the merits of the Safety Initiative, only to stress that different levels of government are given differing responsibilities and that the alternate approval process selected by CRD to address this process is supported by provincial legislation.

A guest asked how a tax could be stoped or whether, once approved, it lasts forever. The reply was that a bylaw would be needed to cease the taxation, just as a bylaw was needed to initiate it.

Although he would not debate the specifics of the proposed Safety Initiative, Adam did speak about provincial-wide concerns about RCMP service. Neighbouring communities, such as Saanich and the Gulf Islands, are experiencing similar concerns and are unhappy with the level of service given by the RCMP. Adam noted that Salt Spring’s effort to address this problem was a very reasonable option in light of the widespread problems with provincial policing.

According to one guest, the form states that the bylaw needed to be attached and that forms are to be submitted to the CRD Victoria office. When this individual called CRD Victoria to question this, she felt that her concerns were not even heard.

Concern was also expressed that to vote “No,” one had to go into the CRD office and submit their name and opposition. As a small island community, it was noted that it felt neither safe nor democratic to “publicly” announce their disapproval and that votes in a democratic society must be confidential. One mentioned feeling intimidated when submitting their ballot.

Adam was asked what he could do to help. He replied that he did not know, but if Salt Springers felt that what was happening was illegal, they should contact a lawyer. He also noted that he had only received a few emails and one phone call expressing concern about this process, leading him to conclude that it was not a concern that was widely shared.

At the conclusion of the conversation, guests were invited to further discuss the process and its flaws with Gary next week at ASK Salt Spring. No matter the conclusion, we as a community have a lot that we can learn from this process which seems to have caught the attention of many Salt Springers.

The conversation shifted to the fear expressed by live aboard in Ganges Harbour that they would be towed away by a service hired by Transport Canada. Adam explained the complexity of jurisdiction over our waters, with Islands Trust zoning near the shore, CRD responsibility for the shore, federal ownership for the waters, and provincial responsibility for the land beneath the waters. While sympathetic to the worries of the live aboards, he suggested that they learn the regulations and comply with them as throughly and as quickly as possible. It was noted that living on the water had regulations just as does living on land.

He suggested that it was imperative that mooring buoys meet Transport Canada regulations and that, though time can be needed to bring vessels into compliance, the safety of those on potentially-unsafe vessels is a major concern. The live aboards in the room agreed and noted a number of abandoned, unsafe vessels in the harbour. They promised to work with the authorities to try to get these unsafe vessels out of the harbour. Adam also suggested that, in addition to knowing the rules and working to abide by them, they should work together as a community organization to become advocates for themselves as well as working together to comply with regulations.

At the conclusion of the conversation, Adam promised to speak with Elizabeth May (they were meeting that evening) and to arrange a meeting including all stakeholders and agencies to fully-understand this issue.

One guest wanted to know about daylight savings. While the Green Party lost on this issue (and Adam stated a number of reasons that Greens did not support it) he did note that one good result was that it is now a regulation issue, rather than a legislative one, so that if changes concerning standard/daylight savings were needed, it would not take a law to do so. We all got a laugh when one stated that daylight savings was good for our farmers as it gave the plants an extra hour of sunlight.

One guest spoke of a green burial option for Salt Springers in the near future. It is hoped that permission will be granted by the end of December to move forward. It will be located on Night Owl Farm, an 84-acre farm largely in the Agricultural Land Reserve. A small portion of this farm, up the slope of Mt. Bruce, is zoned rural instead. It is heavily-wooded and has not been logged for about a century. It is this portion that will become a green cemetery, allowing burial without embalming and caskets, instead permitting natural decomposition. Salt Springers will be welcomed to bury their loved ones there as well as bringing compostable urns with cremated remains and scattering ashes. It is expected that this cemetery will be enjoyed by the community for its natural beauty as well as a space to remember their loved ones.

The conversation closed with concerns expressed by one Early Childhood Educator (ECE) about the day care offered by PARC. When other local infant and toddler centres on the island are having to close for portions of the time due to staff shortages, this individual questioned why PARC is not working with the ECE community before they open potentially-competing facilities. It was suggested she contact Dan Ovington and, possibly, go as a delegation to a PARC meeting to make sure that conversations with the ECE professionals on Salt Spring are initiated.

Adam added that the province has allocated a great deal of funding for infant and toddler care centres without addressing the problem of staffing them. Effort should have been made first to train ECE teachers and to offer graduates a higher, more appropriate, salary, Then, and only then, will the province be ready to fund the many needed spaces for infants and toddlers in our communities.

He went on the say that one simple fix would be to move childcare out of the Ministry of Children and Families and into the Ministry of Education. His reasoning is that services are fractured now and that Early Childcare Education must be part of providing lifelong education.

The meeting concluded with Adam’s interest in holding a joint jurisdictional meeting on Salt Spring in which all decision-makers host a town hall to discuss issues that affect us all. ASK Salt Spring and the Chamber offered their help with this meeting in the early spring.

As the meeting was concluding, one guest noted that she had just been on one of the other Gulf Islands and that signage directed her from her arrival on the island to the Visitors’ Centre. She noted that we have no such signage to guide visitors and wondered how Salt Spring could get signs directing visitors to our centre. And, would the Visitors’ Centre need to pay for these signs? An MoTI question, follow-up is needed.

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