Poor communication and mistrust of Islands Trust governance, new regional poll finds
Monday, November 29, 2021 9am For immediate release
SALT SPRING ISLAND, BC — The Islands Trust Draft Policy Statement should be deferred until the next municipal election mandate in Oct. 2022, say 85% of those surveyed in a recent poll. Another 69.3% say “scrap it” entirely. These were among the main findings from a new Southern Gulf Islands resident and business poll held over two weeks in November. Approximately 450 locals who joined a public website, via flyers, word of mouth and social media, were invited to complete the survey. The survey had a 42% response rate, representing 189 individuals of diverse ages from Salt Spring, Galiano, Mayne, Pender, and others.
Strong opposition to the current draft stems from the belief the Islands Trust regional government used a top-down, secretive process to ram through the 51 new regulatory directives, everything from banning desalination despite chronic water shortages, prohibiting new docks in areas with poor ferry service, disallowing tiny homes during a housing crisis, limiting farming, retail options or even the ability to cut a single, diseased tree on your property. “The draft plan,
developed by consultants and bureaucrats who don’t even live here, was presented with little room for public engagement or recognition of the uniqueness of each island,” says Jamie Harris, 51, a forestry worker with three children and group spokesperson from Salt Spring Island.
An Indigenous resident and construction sector member, Ron Spencer says: “This unaccountable “big brother” governance model is broken. We’ve already seen spectacular fails by similarly appointed regional governments like Metro Vancouver’s billion-dollar sewage plant boondoggle, leaving taxpayers on the hook.” Although he noted 58.7% of respondents are demanding a grassroots consultation, an even greater number, 75.1%, “aren’t even confident the Trust will integrate community concerns into a new Draft Policy.”
Despite these apparent trust issues, poor communication or public engagement to date, Harris and Spencer still believe a new community-based plan can balance environmental protection and integrate Indigenous values while expanding fresh water supply & affordable housing options without harming the local economy or food sources.
Island Trust Public Engagement to date has been “very poor” (78.3%) of respondents.
Majority of respondents learned about the new Islands Trust Draft Policy Statement from their neighbours through word of mouth (50.3%) or a neighbour email (43.4%), followed by social media (18%) or their local newspaper (16.9%). Only 15.3% identified the Islands Trust as their source of news on the proposed new mandate.
74.1% were “strongly opposed” to the new Draft Policy Statement after viewing its content.
Similar to other cities and regions in BC and Canada, Affordable or Workforce Housing was cited by 24.9% as one of the key challenges facing the Gulf Islands. However, that was surpassed by the 35.4% who
pointed to the Islands Trust, Regional Governance, Local Government, Capital Regional District as the “biggest challenge”.
People were most concerned with the Islands Trust Draft Policy Statement impacts on the following areas of their lives and livelihoods, in ranked order of importance. Multiple answers were permitted.
- Tree Cutting: a new requirement for every landowner to pay for a permit to cut a tree on private property (84.1%)
- Taxation: taxes on local residents and business will substantially rise to support this expanded Islands Trust mandate that is proposing to include climate change, affordable housing and Indigenous reconciliation normally addressed by higher levels of government (83.1%)
- Top-down approach to engagement: presenting a fully baked plan with little opportunity for input/changes (82%)
- Moratorium on new public docks despite the lack of or limited ferry service between islands. People rely on boats to buy groceries, visit hospitals, or evacuate in emergencies (76.7%)
- Doesn’t recognize uniqueness of each island (75.1%)
- Livelihood: restrict local businesses, retailers, tourism, hotels, short-term rentals, farming, artists/artisans (69.3%)
- Prohibition of desalinization plants that would help increase freshwater supply (64%)
- Housing: size limits would decrease seasonal housing & rental housing options (63%)
- Farming & Agriculture Restrictions: Island communities rely on local farming produce for their livelihood and food, as well as tourism opportunities with farm-based B&B (62.4%)
- Heritage and Sustainability Values Defined by the Islands Trust not individual Community Plans (49.7%)
Survey collation by Google Forms Excel spreadsheet tabs, source data Social media graphic
Jamie Harris, Volunteer, Salt Spring forestry worker
email@example.com Due to limited mobility service, please text his cell: 1-250-530-9663
SELECTION OF SURVEY COMMENTS
All comments may be viewed in the excel spreadsheet in backgrounder.
“I asked what was the cost of the implications of the trust’s decision…was promised an answer, never got it.”
“The Policy Revision places way too much control in the hands of the unelected and unaccountable staff in Victoria.”
“Islands Trust needs to stick with its original mandate of land use and not try and expand its purview into areas of jurisdiction of other government agencies.”
“This is big brother at its worst.”
“The Trust needs to decide if Salt Spring is to be a tourist destination and pro-business or a nature reserve. There is a middle way!”
“Banning of docks, for those who use boats for work, community and helping neighbours, is absurd.”
“If people need to build on their land, let them! People should be able to make housing to rent which in turn will give jobs.”
ABOUT THE SOUTHERN GULF ISLAND RESIDENT AND BUSINESS COALITION:
We are an apolitical group of residents & businesses advocating for a balanced regional plan that protects the environment, includes Indigenous communities, expands freshwater & affordable housing options without harming our local economy or food sources. We are the grassroots of this community, people who raise families here, breed livestock, grow food and operate retail stores or create artisan wares.
Copyright © 2021 Southern Gulf Islands Residents and Businesses Coalition, All rights reserved.