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  • Gayle Baker

Welcoming MLA Adam Olsen: "Who Do We Think We Are?"

May 3

The first ASK Salt Spring gathering in May welcomed MLA Adam Olsen and Constituency Advocate Jerram Gawley for a rich and diverse conversation. Adam used his most recent weekly two-minute speech to the Legislature (https://adamolsen.ca/2024/05/my-duty-to-stand-up-for-the-salish-sea-never-diminishes/) as his Territorial Acknowledgement, speaking of disturbing changes to the waters surrounding us. The site of one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, this once-rich region has become noisy and polluted. Local fishing, once our First Nations’ economic foundation, is now only a pastime.


This Acknowledgement of a marine environment that was once far richer led us to a discussion of our local harbours. Adam expressed the frustration he and others are experiencing with multiple agencies, each having responsibility but doing nothing, layers and layers of bureaucratic inertia. Local governments are left with water-based issues that need to be addressed but with neither the authority nor the funding to address them.


We learned from Adam that, in 2012, during the last days of the Harper Administration, an omnibus bill, The Navigation Protection Act, Bill C-45 (https://www.ourcommons.ca/Content/Committee/421/TRAN/Brief/BR8698385/br-external/TruyensAnn-2-e.pdf) was passed. While multi-faceted, a lasting result of this bill is the widespread federal deregulation of our waters. For example, this act allowed minor works - largely mooring buoys - as long as they adhered to basic requirements such as an owner’s name and phone number on them.


This federal deregulation (as well as minimal enforcement of infractions) has resulted in a widespread hands off approach in our marine environment. With the unwillingness of the federal government to enforce regulation, the province is also unwilling to regulate in its area of marine authority. Local governments, with a few exceptions, have refused to take on the cost and liability of providing the needed regulation and support needed by their water-based communities.


The deregulation of our waters has recently become even more complicated as our harbours have become a viable housing option for growing numbers of people who are having difficulties getting housing elsewhere. While in previous decades, living aboard was generally a lifestyle choice, for many today, it is a last resort for housing. The housing crisis has seen a dramatic increase in liveaboards, estimated at approximately a total of 200 in all four of our harbours, half of which are located in Ganges. This increase has also seen an increased need for more services as well as growing environmental concerns. 


Many local governments are no longer willing to ignore this important part of their community. They recognize their imperative to address these issues from both an environmental perspective as well as from the service requirements of a healthy community. In Adam’s opinion, this conversation about local governments stepping into the inertia of federal and provincial responsibility must be accompanied by support and funding for those local governments willing to step into the breach. 


On April 30, 2024, the Capital Regional District’s Environmental Protection Division organized a meeting of local governments titled Collaborative Action to Resolve Boat-Related Issues in the Capital Region. Three local government options were presented:

  1. Use zoning, land use and/or structure bylaws to prohibit private mooring buoys and the associated boats.

  2. Use those same bylaws to regulate private mooring buoys and the associated boats and also provide shore services such as garbage services, access to a small boat tie-up area and a sewage pump-out facility.

  3. Enter into a licence of occupation with the Province for the affected areas, charge fees for private mooring buoys and the associated boats, regulate them and provide shore services.


One of our ASK Salt Spring participants, Local Commissioner Brian, attended this meeting along with Electoral Director, Gary. Brian has offered the following summary and opinions of this recent meeting, noting that the opinions are his and his alone:


There was significant discussion of how the withdrawal of the federal government and the Province’s unwillingness to become actively involved with the issue has placed local governments in a challenging position. Participants also appeared to agree that any and all solutions are complex and multi-jurisdictional.


Participants acknowledged that meaningful action for Salt Spring Island and the Southern Gulf Islands Electoral Area would almost certainly require cooperation between the CRD and the Islands Trust, as the former delivers services while the latter administers zoning and land use bylaws.

There also appeared to be general agreement that the proliferation of private mooring buoys and boats across the region is a growing problem and that collaboration and cooperation among local governments across the region is important.


There was no consensus that any of the three presented options was a viable solution. Of the three, an outright prohibition was generally viewed as drastic and unrealistic, while the option of entering into a licence of occupation and regulating with fees was characterised as overly ambitious. There was some sentiment that option #2 (local government regulation without entering into a licence of occupation) might be viable. Lobbying for greater involvement by the provincial and/or federal governments was viewed as important.


Before we switched to another topic, it was noted that it was critical that our liveaboard community be included in the conversation to determine if local intervention is required. Also, the LCC, with authority over the Small Harbour Facilities Service, and Islands Trust, with its land use authority, must begin conversations. (Islands Trustees and staff will be ASK Salt Spring guests May 24, and it is expected that our new Harbourmaster will join us the week before, May 17, so this conversation may continue here as well.)


A participant asked Adam what role culture would play in his upcoming campaign. Adam spoke about BC’s multicultural society, a complex mosaic of identities. The story we tell ourselves about who we are requires us to weave together our multicultural richness into a coherent whole. Unfortunately, Adam sees the political sphere pulling us apart rather than binding us together, exploiting differences for short term political gain.


Who do we think we are? Adam remembered a time when Canadians were viewed  as the friendly peacekeepers that the international community wanted at the peace table. No longer true, in his opinion, Adam longs for the day when Canadians are called in to mediate tense international situations and when our experienced foreign service is called upon for solution-seeking. Instead, our nation and province seems uninterested in playing that larger world role, focused more upon doing what it takes to win elections than govern.


When asked about the value of tradition, Adam responded that, while tradition is always an important consideration, decisions must also asses current needs. He spoke of the traditional Legislative seating arrangements behind desks. In a space designed for far fewer MLAs, it must now accommodate 93 MLAs. And, that is only if a limited number of wheelchair-bound MLAs are elected this fall. Should this seating tradition rank higher than function?


As Adam’s time with us was drawing to a close, we asked him about his top priorities for Salt Spring in the months leading to his fall campaigning. He responded:

  1. Continued progress toward a Salt Spring Primary Care Network - PCN - (https://fpscbc.ca/what-we-do/system-change/primary-care-networks), a team-based approach to health care that holds much hope for many, including Adam. With our healthcare crisis heavy on his mind, Adam briefly mentioned having received some very sad healthcare stories this week.

  2. He also has hope for the Salish Sea Harbour Authority (https://adamolsen.ca/2020/10/a-governance-solution-for-the-salish-sea/).

  3. And. . .with an estimated $30-$40 million being spent on our roads this summer, largely with the repaving of Ganges Hill and the Blackburn Bridge, smile, relax, be patient as there will be delays! 


We thanked Adam and Jerram for being with us every month, for giving us great information; expanding our assumptions with his unique and different perspectives; listening intently to our concerns, even when he has heard them all so often; and working so hard with us to find solutions. (Thanks Adam and Jerram!)  



Please join us this Friday, May 10, 11-1, in the SIMS (former Middle School) classroom next to the Boardroom to welcome Local Commissioners Brian and Gayle.


What would you like to ask them?

  • Since you were sworn in last June, what do you think has been your biggest accomplishment?

  • Since June, what has been your biggest disappointment?

  • What do you plan to accomplish in 2024?

  • What do you see as the biggest challenges to your plans for 2024?

  • Looking more longterm, please describe the Local Community Commission you envision in 2026 with the changes/expansion/limits that you hope will be in place by then.

  • And?

Hope to see you this Friday to welcome Brian and Gayle!


Just in case you are interested. . . .This report has been written by Gayle Baker, Ph. D., founder of ASK Salt Spring, currently also a Salt Spring Local Community Commissioner. This report has also been edited by this week’s special guest.


Want to help? We welcome volunteers to join the team. Please join us making ASK Salt Spring ever better!


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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