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  • Gayle Baker

MLA Adam Olsen Talks About Early Childhood Education, Health, and Affordable Housing.

November 1:

Fifteen islanders came to ASK Salt Spring with a wide variety of questions. Some even came without questions, seeking only to see what ASK Salt Spring is all about and to listen to the questions of others. While at least five came specifically seeking to speak with Adam, most joined happily into the conversation while awaiting Adam’s late arrival at noon. (Two needed to leave before he arrived, but they asked me to follow-up and contact Adam on their behalf.)

The questions covered a wide range of issues, and the resulting conversations explored many complex components of each subject. Volunteers were initially treated to a rendition of some fascinating Salt Spring history by a long-time islander. Questions were then asked about reactions to Monday’s Community Alliance meeting on the Safety initiative as the majority of those in the room at the time had attended it. Opinions varied, but a takeaway impression was that most were shocked and concerned by some of the incidents, most especially the report that drug dealers were targeting middle school girls to get them into both drugs as well as prostitution.

One man arrived, only staying a few minutes and with one specific question: He had many winter clothes and wanted them to go to someone needing them. It was suggested he call Cherrie and given her phone number. (She has her car full of clothes and gives them to all who need them.) United Church’s Art Jam often has clothes available. Transitions also gives clothes to those who need then when they come into the store. He left quite pleased.

A question was raised about Salt Spring Solutions, their role in affordable housing, and some of their zoning suggestions. After giving that information, the conversation moved to the complexity of affordable housing, a key priority of so many groups. To get a better idea of the many initiatives, it was agreed that attendance at a Housing Council meeting could be helpful as it appears to be a nexus of collaboration. Tiny homes were discussed, and a conversation with one of our new building inspectors was suggested to identify the challenges.

The need for infant care centers on Salt Spring was raised. Due to ratio requirements, these centres do not break even. The good news is that the Province has funds to help; the bad news is that there are not enough Early Childhood Education teachers available to deliver this needed service. (It was later learned that high school students can get both high school and college credit for Early Childhood Education, graduating well on their way to completion of the program. Despite this, there are not enough teachers available. This is likely due to the low salaries of this career choice.)

Concern was raised about Centennial Park and the ugliness of the orange plastic fence. A few others joined in, expressing concern that the great amount of community input concerning the Centennial Park renovation was not being heeded. (Some in the room believed that it all too often happens that community input is sought and not utilized.) The fate of the Japanese cherry trees was also discussed. The concerned citizens committed to make sure that community input had been integrated into the plan and, if it has not, to meet with Dan Ovington to express then concern. .

Concerns were also raised about Vesuvius Bay Beach and stairs that are falling down, hazardous to all. It is believed that this beach access is under the jurisdiction of CRD. This supposition will be checked out with Dan Ovington. Adam was asked who is responsible for the beach, eliciting a complex answer involving many agencies and confusing jurisdiction. It is hoped that the CRD is responsible for the Vesuvius Beach and can both make the stair access safe again as well as beginning the process to remove the many small plastic children’s boats on the beach, awaiting our first winter storm to be swept away to become more plastic garbage in our ocean. Adam told us that there is a CRD process to rid our beaches of abandoned boats, and the islander concerned about Vesuvius Beach plastic will ask CRD to begin the process to clear it.

An update on the progress of the laundromat was offered. A number in the room had not been aware of its progress and were pleased. Wagon Wheel is moving rapidly to secure community partnerships and prepare to write grants, most immediately, exploration into whether the Shaw Funds would be a good fit, with this application due November 30.

Emcon is Salt Spring’s new road contractor. They are responsible for all road maintenance; not new road construction. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) allocates funds for them to fulfill their contract, but it does not specifically identify how funds are to be spent. Adam prefers that requests/complaints go to Emcon so that they become a part of the formal record this contractor is required to report. Takeaway: Road maintenance is largely complaint-driven. If we want something addressed, it is critical that we work with them and submit requests in writing. . . early and often. . . until it is resolved.

The conversation concluded with health care, beginning with the BC Rural Health Network which has just accepted a $75, 000 grant to better understand a number of BC health priorities. Adam reminded us of the complexity of team-based care. When our health care was established, doctors were allowed to remain private; any movement away from this is being met with reluctance by established doctors who have known nothing else and are comfortable with the system. The minister is moving very carefully as change is likely to be met with resistance.

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