- Gayle Baker
Ten Local Community Commission Candidates: Ten Opinions and a Rich Conversation
Thirty - including 10 Local Community Commission (LCC) candidates - came to this ASK Salt Spring gathering to discuss LCC and CRD issues. Candidates who joined us were:
Eric G. Marsh,
Earl Rook, and
*** Ben and Jenny needed to leave for work before 1:00.***
(Each of these candidates had an opportunity to review the comments attributed to them and edit as needed. They all understand that this ASK Salt Spring report with their comments will be published on the Exchange.)
After her Territorial Acknowledgement, our facilitator, Mary Richardson, Alternate CRD Director as well as former chair of the Liquid Waste Commission, began by asking her question:
Question #1: If you had to choose one, please identify in which of the LCC services you are most interested?
Ben would choose Economic Development as he would like to help keep the good work of Francine Carlin and the Economic Sustainability Commission alive; he sees solutions to most of our island’s challenges (environment, lack of affordable housing, and food security) as linked to a healthy, progressive economy.
Jenny would choose Liquid Waste and Transportation to get more Salt Springers to ride the bus through exploring different options and different routes.
Earl would choose Economic Development as the major forces impacting us are either environmentally- or economically-based. He is well prepared with a Masters in Business to move Salt Spring toward a more diversified economy, including the arts
Brian believes that all elected Local Commissioners must understand all LCC services, but he also sees the value of each Local Commissioner with a particular focus. He would select Parks and Recreation, with the largest budget, including everything from the pool and parks to the proposed HarbourWalk. With seven years as a PARC Commissioner, it took him years to understand its complex budget. He would bring this knowledge to the LCC.
Kylie is most interested in Housing, an area not yet an LCC service area. He spoke of people living in tents (380), our parks, and over 80 living on their boats; We are a community with the most electric cars and also the most homeless (per capita).
Lloyd acknowledged his difficulty speaking about himself in front of a crowd. However, he emphasized his ability to find solutions to problems. He also touched on how work force housing is a huge problem; We need to help working people through this tough inflationary period, as well as listening and encouraging homeowners/landlords help supply rentals while helping both parties protect their investment from being abused. With his experience in construction and real estate, he has an understanding of economics and finance. Lloyd is also very interested in composting and recycling, stressing the need to address the absence of composting on the island.
Eric finds himself the most interested in economic development, but is keeping an open mind as he grows his knowledge, reserving the right to change his mind.
As systems thinker, it would be hard for Nejmah to pick a focus. She told us that we need a broad vision for the future, understanding how everything is connected to people and the planet. Believing that we are in the darkest before the dawn, she thinks that we are figuring out that we are part of the planet. She is interested in housing, composting, and she appreciates microbes. She believes that is important that we have systems to serve our farms. She expressed passion about applying for a lucrative grant. She can see her role as its champion by harmonizing and collaborating with community groups, nonprofits, and creating a youth council to get their input. She would like to find creative ways to help our community to manage our issues: The people who deal with the problems know what is needed. We need to listen to our businesses, schools.
David is interested in Liquid Waste, especially as he has owned farm land for the last 20 years near the Burgoyne Valley facility. After a long talk with Peter Lake, who is concerned about hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on studies and yet another underway, David is frustrated by CRD policy. He believes that, with help from our local experts, Peter and Mary Richardson, we can solve this.
But, David is campaigning on public safety. It is all interconnected. Everyone is interested in workforce housing. Lady Minto has a housing problem. David believes that the LCC will encourage issues to be brought to the table and solved.
These will include:
Reduce the speed limit in Ganges when Rob Fleming is at ASK Salt Spring June 2.
Shoulders for cyclists and pedestrians;
Address safety issues regarding one way traffic gauntlets at Crofton, Vesuvius, and Fulford.
Reconstitute the Ferry Advisory Committee as a streamlined Sub Committee of the LCC with a Chair and four 4 Committee Members. An LCC Commissioner will be the Member at Large of the Committee, channelling the comments and requests from the other stakeholders within in the Community.
Consider looking at the advantages of bringing North Salt Spring Waterworks and the Fire Districts under the purview of the CRD and LCC.
Fix Centennial Park and complete the HarbourWalk. Both are Public Safety concerns.
Better support our firefighters, paramedics, etc. If elected, he would be honored to serve the people of Salt Spring.
Gayle brings many years of experience with our Transportation issues - as well as a clear understanding of how very difficult it is to accomplish seemingly simple improvements. If elected, this would likely be her area of focus, but she is also very interested in the potential for getting a lot done very quickly - like worker housing - by using existing economic development funding to support nonprofits to address our most important economic vitality issues.
Question #2: A participant spoke of the noise and pollution from too much traffic. What would you. do to reduce the congestion on Salt Spring?
Jenny believes that it is common sense to honour the people who are taking the bus, saving energy and not taking parking spaces. To avoid congestion in Ganges, we need to offer more door-to-door service, such as to this building, SIMS. This was once a safer area; Now, fast cars make it dangerous. The answer is to get more bus service, and she has ideas for initiatives to improve our bus service.
Earl told us that LCC needs to deal with nuts and bolts of the services under its oversight, such as the transit system. We must adapt to change quickly as possible and be responsive to changes as they occur.
Brian reminded us that our land use patterns of a widely-dispersed population makes it almost impossible for many to do daily business without a car. While land use decisions are outside the scope of the LCC, it can lobby. He recently posted an opinion piece on the Exchange, supporting increased densities in the Ganges as well as more mixed use development as part of the answer.
Kylie spoke of our great transit system, acknowledging Gary for establishing it. He also reminded us that our roads belong to the province and hopes that the LCC will advocate to get our roads fixed. If elected, he will advocate for one of the Local Commissioners to also serve as Alternate Director. He also hopes to explore making Ganges a special area so that we can lower speed limits and create pedestrian zones. He closed by reminding us that Fulford is a village too and that is is hard to walk around there.
Lloyd agreed that we need to come up with ideas to help reduce congestion downtown and over time electrification of most vehicles will reduce the sound. The bus is a great example of moving people around, and we all know we need proper bike paths and maybe looking at rezoning for parking just outside of the village. These projects take capital, so he encouraged that we not be scared of the word capitalism. Let’s make the goal post for permitting and zoning applications more clear with developers contributing to sidewalks, water systems, sewers, etc. He suggested encouraging environmentally sustainable development and requiring these developers help improve the needed infrastructure.
Eric rarely takes the bus as he lives on Walker’s Hook, and he would have to wait over two hours after work to commute home on the bus. We need to work with BC Transit to make our bus system more effective. He is a cyclist, and Salt Spring is the least safe place he has experienced as a cyclist. We need to make sure there are safe spaces on the road for cyclists. Cycling safety got worse when Emcon painted centre lines but not shoulder (fog) lines, leading to drivers encroaching on the shoulder. He often chooses to walk.
Nejmah will not put her kid on a bike. She walks, trying to take the trails. She is interested in lighting the trails. Why couldn’t we have a micro-shuttles, like golf carts, around Gagnes? We need to think about different modalities.
David told us that BC ferries are committed to electrification. He would like to see a 30 km speed limit in Ganges..
Gayle told us that, while BC Transit does a good job, they also say NO to good ideas - like making sure that buses wait for delayed ferries rather than leaving before the ferry arrives, stranding ferry riders without an option. What about the added summer Fulford ferries this summer? BC Transit has said our buses cannot meet these additional ferries. Will this be resolved? The LCC will need to communicate with our local transit operators to learn how to increase ridership. Are there some rules stopping folks from riding? What about the prohibition of dogs? Why can’t riders have drinks in a sealed container? Lots of unanswered questions. . . .
Question #3: What is understanding of a community health centre?
Gayle: Unlike a Primary Care Network, a network of healthcare professionals offering each patient a full-range of services that may not require a single location, a community health centre requires a centrally-located commercial space. While the mobile unit being explored by the Salt Spring Community Health Society could help, it is not actually a community heath care centre.
Jenny told us that Saanich Peninsula Hospital also has the same staffing problems as Lady Minto Hospital. Without home health workers, some people that need support to live in their own home cannot be released and end up staying in the hospital longer than necessary. There is only one person on Salt Spring that checks up on people living at home. This is a huge problem.
Earl: Keeping our hospital staffed and open is a serious problem, a matter of housing, exacerbated by our water problems. We are drilling wells for water for affordable housing units, but this is not a long term solution. We need a more comprehensive approach in place. Without services, this is a less tenable place to live.
Brian: Community health centres have an advantage because there are various disciplines to fill in if one healthcare professional is not there.It would be a good value in a community like ours. Get our CRD staff out of commercial space and into SIMS, and put it there!
Kylie attended talk on this. He learned that we have burnt out the health care people with COVID, and people are retiring. He has learned that there is space under the hospital that he believes has been empty for many years. He asked about putting a clinic underneath the hospital in this unused space, and got a firm NO.
Kylie recalled that, in the past, there had been talk about another (auxiliary) hospital in Fulford (part of Lady Minto).If we move some hospital services (like bloodwork, perhaps x-ray, and the clinic) to Fulford, people in Fulford would not to have to drive to Ganges. He reminded us that we don’t know the situation with roads in an emergency, so multiple health centres would be beneficial.
Kylie noted that we can only volunteer so much for each cause and that it is frustrating when volunteers work hard on something and nothing happens. Believing that everything comes down to housing, he questioned why we are building a new emergency room if nurses and doctors cannot find places to live here.
Eric has retained a family doctor at a community health centre in Vancouver. He suggests that a community health centre would integrate multiple health services under one roof and that such a thing would be awesome on Salt Spring. Eric believes solving our health issues is part of economic development as chronically ill workers, such as himself, would be forced to leave if there are too many gaps in emergency services. Anything the LCC can do to help is critical.
Nejmah’s middle child was a c-section, so she had to go to Victoria to deliver rather than being able to stay on Salt Spring. She also has to go to the hospital for her prescriptions. She would like to see consideration for a health centre at the Drake Road property. She is reaching out to crowd source our workforce to empower people, expand concepts such as the mental health initiative. Peer centric models can create a stronger community net. We have got get creative. What about rezoning Drake Road as commercial?
In terms of healthcare, Lloyd emphasized the importance of attracting and retaining physician talent by providing amenities that meet their families' needs. He highlighted the need for sports facilities to retain doctors and nurses, as expecting families to commute off the island for sports activities is impractical. Workforce housing was again mentioned as a critical factor.
David: We need a walk-in clinic if half the community doesn’t have a doctor. We need it right downtown. A community health centre is a walk-in clinic.
Question #4 - What would you do to address our housing challenge and the threat of fire?
David: I would go to the North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD)and ask them to lift the moratorium. I imagine Jamie has an idea about reducing fire risks.
Nejmah How to address forest: We need to get away from drawing a line. A lot of work could be done to use economic models such as donut economics (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doughnut_(economic_model)). We need to have a measurement so everyone feels safe. We need to focus on How?
Eric admitted that he does not yet know much about forest management on Salt Spring Island. However, he did learn about using controlled burns in forest management in Jasper, including consulting indigenous knowledge and believes we should seek to employ similar techniques here. Eric is a renter and drew attention to a recent UBC study showing 85% of evictions in BC are no fault of the tenant. Eric believes housing is a human right, more important than viewing housing as someone's investment.
Lloyd believes we need to look at many options when it comes to fire threats, with expertise and common sense guiding us. We need to recognize the fuel load that has accumulated. He proposed promoting local, economical, and sustainable wood harvesting to reduce the fuel load . Over time, the suppressed forest fires across the province have contribute to a growing threat in the build up of the fuel load, even despite the negative headlines, perhaps prescribed burns by professionals? No, not every where!
Concerning housing, according to Lloyd, we need to modernize. Creating a Housing Authority with a more streamlined permitting process with a more clear picture of what our community’s plans are would help. Remembering having a businesses case and making a profit while developing the needed housing is not a bad thing. Promoting homeowners and developments to have in their vision a more sustainable housing plan that includes a mix of higher-end and more affordable homes to create a vibrant and inclusive community with sustainable design features, promoting socio-economic diversity, and providing access to essential amenities. The community’s involvement are crucial to shaping these projects. To even consider SIMS, as it is prime real estate. It would a perfect project with the right design to serve as an example and to help fund more affordable housing throughout the community. As our budget needs tightening we need to have other ideas on how to fund more parks, this could be in a local economic plan.
Kylie has a housing society, Wagon Wheel. It is hard to house people on Salt Spring. We have to stop vilifying landlords. (The province needs to change.) The Landlord/Tenant Act is a problem in that the tenants have all the rights. Too many possible rentals are being turned into vacation rentals because landlords have had bad experiences renting. Our fire protection budget has been reduced. (The province spent $5 million on fire protection and $300 million fighting fires.) We have a great fire department (that every year stops brushfires in the summer.) We need a new fire hall. How about a fire watch (being set up)?
In response to a comment from Lloyd, Brian does not believe we have too many parks. Our Emergency Management Service is not under the LCC. Neither are Bylaw Enforcement services. Brian believes that there are legitimate questions about whether these additional services should also be under the LCC. Concerning housing - let’s identify a housing service that will generate funds to hire a staff instead of asking volunteers who are already overstretched.
Earl: We are living with the result of years of land use decisions. We need multi-tenant, low rise, high density housing, preferably on transit lines. This is the only way to get enough affordable housing for Salt Spring. Earl agrees that we need to consider bringing emergency management under the LCC.
Jenny replied that she had heard about fire departments mitigating fire risk by keeping the watersheds healthy, also protecting the water. She has heard about NSSWD asking for water conservation. We need water for fire management. She likes the idea of looking to the kids for solutions.
Gayle asked the participant asking the question not to begin conversations about housing with the term entrenched interests. Instead, she invited everyone to come to ASK Salt Spring next week, Friday, May 26, 11-1, in the SIMS Lobby to welcome the authors of the Salt Spring Solutions housing position paper (https://www.saltspringsolutions.com/) to have a respectful conversation rich with multiple perspectives.
Concerning fire, the LCC can make an impact: Grants in Aid, under the LCC, can be used to fund nonprofits to address our problem of the very-flammable gorse and broom, for example. Transition Salt Spring (TSS) is doing an amazing project on how to maintain our forest and watersheds. Using that information, CRD Parks could better maintain forests under its control. How about creating a reward for large landowners who use this TSS forest management information to maintain their forests?
Question #5: It is possible that this fall, the province will force local governments that are not creating housing quickly enough to adhere to blanket legalization of suites. Candidates were asked if they would support this with a Yes or No answer.
Gayle - I would not support it until I see what is proposed.
Kylie - Let Salt Springers decide where its housing goes. We need to have local people involved.
Brian - More densified housing dense - yes; More housing scattered all over the island - no. Supporting more housing where there are services, minimizing GHG, he does not support a one size-fits all Vancouver style solution.
Eric supports this bill and believes that if Salt Spring is not making changes fast enough there should be outside intervention.
David - Let’s find our own solution as a community before the BC Government imposes one.
Lloyd - Yes, so Saltspring. let’s get it done ourselves.
Question #6: What CRD expenses are wasteful?
David: Liquid waste management.
Nejmah: Liquid waste, yes and the high cost of paper towels at SIMS. How we look at profit feels so hollow - We need to give it a higher purpose. We need to generate income for our community instead of cutting. We need to keep what we have and build.
Eric does not like to describe the use of tax dollars as waste but does admit we need to be seeking efficiencies. Eric agrees with other candidates that liquid waste transport and the price of paper towels at SIMS are examples of efficiencies we can be investigating.
Lloyd reminded us that if we watch our pennies, the dollars will look after themselves. He pointed out unnecessary waste, such as simple things as lights being on in the SIMS Lobby during daylight, as the daylight was coming in every window. He also proposed encouraging off-peak visits to the recycling depot to avoid counterproductive idling of vehicles in the lineup. He had seen the lineup al the way out to Rainbow Road.
The $600,000 we spend annually could be dramatically reduced by getting the dewatering facility in place on the property that CRD already has. Trucking the liquid sewage from Ganges off island is a waste of tax dollars and must stop asap.
Kylie works for the Department of Defense, and he sees wasteful spending all over. What about the bathrooms in the park (that should remain open longer than 9 to 5 )? We need to spend more on maintenance. (We build things and then don't take care of them properly like the bus stop near the Visitors’ Centre.)
Brian was part of the decision on the Centennial Park bathroom. These decisions are a lot harder than they appear when you have to consider requirements and actual choices. Now, the LCC will be a group of local elected residents making these decisions. Brian hopes they focus on trying to squeeze every dollar of benefit possible.
Earl: Liquid waste is the outlier because the money is easy to identify. Unfortunately, CRD budgets leave many questions as the underlying details are not available. We need to look deeper at information that is not currently available to see if we are getting the most for our dollars.
Gayle - On the Transportation Commission we worked hard to drill down on expenditures to make sure dollars were not wasted. We were sometimes successful. One big area of new (and possibly needless) expenditures is that several years ago Island Pathways volunteers did a great deal of pathway work that saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. This volunteer involvement is now far more difficult, largely due to CRD risk aversion. I believe that the LCC needs to look at better using the energy and enthusiasm of volunteers for many reasons in addition to saving money.
Gayle reminded us that we are giving nearly $600,000 to Regional Parks each year - and have been giving hundreds of thousands of dollars for decades - with no significant return. Promising bike lanes from Central to Vesuvius, they have done nothing. Unfortunately, they may never create these needed Vesuvius Bay Road bike lanes as they only build bike lanes that are separated from the road. Available space along this narrow, curvy road is unlikely to allow that required separation. Do we keep paying these hundred of thousands of dollars with never a return? A required regional expenditure, when do we say No More?
Question #7 - This question had multiple parts. It also included the yes/no question: Should First Nations be better acknowledged and included in governance? As 1:00 was also upon us, Mary suggested the time may be best used to make a brief summation.
As the first to respond, Earl summed up by reminding us the the LCC is taking on a big job that will take time.He is concerned that expectations are running perhaps too high to be realistic.
Other candidates addressed reconciliation in their responses:
Nejmah is living reconciliation - her RV, accommodating two Indigenous girls, is being forced to move. These girls will have nowhere to go, not even considered for Kings Lane. How can we support their involvement when their basic needs are not being met? We’ve lost a sense of community.
Brian noted that the HarbourWalk project goes over First Nations land. We need their involvement with these designs as well as the little park at the intersection of Upper and Lower Ganges Roads.
In reference to a comment by the participant asking the question about the importance of a clinic over that of pickle ball, Brian reminded us that pickleball is important too. We don’t need to give up pickleball to have a medical clinic. There may be land owned by Parks and Recreation that could be use for a non-park/recreation use. With consistent values underlying our decisions, we can set priorities and get a lot done.
Kylie told us that 17 bands claim Salt Spring, many visiting but not living here. He reminded us that, if elected, he will donate his salary to a worthy Salt Spring charity. He wants to get housing done - for himself and others.
Lloyd - We need to consult with local First Nations. And, he reiterated that housing is a top priority for the future of the community
Eric replied yes, we should absolutely be including our first nations peoples in the governance of our island. Eric then went on to encourage his fellow candidates that, despite our differences as candidates, whoever gets elected will need to serve all Salt Springers.
Nejmah told us that a number of skiffs were cleared from the dock yesterday, leaving liveaboards no way to get home. A number of those impacted were First Nations.
David believes that BC Ferries uses First Nations considerations as a scapegoat for stalling the process and not doing what they should be doing and getting on with infrastructure improvements.
Gayle said that a simple first step would be to acknowledge our indigenous history in Ganges through art and signs. What about Welcome to Ganges artistic signs to let folks know they are entering a village with a rich multi-cultural history? And, these signs entering Ganges might even slow drivers a bit a well?
As it was past 1:00, we thanked our candidates for joining us for an interesting conversation. While some began packing up, others continued the conversation, and some candidates went to our radio station, CHiR.FM to be interviewed: https://chir.fm/answered/ep7-lcc-election. (Thanks, candidates!)
Please join us Friday, May 26, 11-1 to welcome Salt Spring Solutions Directors, Elizabeth FitzZallen and Mairi Welman to discuss their recently-released housing report: (https://www.saltspringsolutions.com/).
What would you like to ask them?
What recommendation from your report do you think can be accomplished by 2024?
What steps would you like see taken this year to address our housing crisis?
Can you tell us a bit about the feedback you have received so far?
What do you see as next, most immediate, steps?
Please join us to welcome Mairi and Elizabeth Friday, May 26!
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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monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings?
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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!