Letter to the Editor – Helen Grond

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Shortages in the Land of Plenty

When your government goes off the rails, what can you do?

The last year of the Rogers tower application process on Hornby Island has revealed a disturbing pattern of acting outside of legal protocols by The Islands Trust Corporation (yes, it’s a corporation).  Freedom of Information documents (FOIA) have clearly demonstrated how Trust planners avoided due process at every turn and coached and guided Brian Gregg, Rogers’ agent, on how to get his tower application approved quickly by ignoring the laws designed to protect the rights of Hornby Islanders.  Several Trust planners have either left or been transferred off the file without a proper explanation.  Something is going seriously awry at the Trust and our Trustees seem to have been silenced and sidelined.  Is the Trust involved in a “cover up” since recent allegations have been made and therefore they’ve cancelled scheduled meetings and gone silent?

Concerned Hornby citizens have held three public information meetings over the course of the last year.  Neither Rogers nor the Trust has held a single one.  Over 300 islanders have signed a petition stating they don’t think cell towers are appropriate for Hornby Island.  Many thanks to all of those participants in a process that should have been democratic but so far, has failed that fundamental test spectacularly. 

To add insult to injury, the tower consultation process appears to have technically expired on March 20th, 2023 – 120 days after official notice of intent was published on November 21, 2022.  The federal agency in charge of the application regulations – Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED)- has clear guidelines: “ISED expects that land-use consultation will be completed within 120 days from the proponent’s initial formal contact with the local land-use authority”.   Why hasn’t the Trust cancelled the application as supported by ISED’s own procedural guidelines?   Did Rogers apply for an extension required by legal protocols and if so why has the Trust not informed the community?   

Mistrusting the Trust has been a preoccupation for many Islanders over the years.  If the recent revelations had happened ten or even five years ago, most Islanders would have been up in arms.  Why the apathy?  People tell me it’s because fighting “out of touch” governments feels futile.  They say governments “don’t listen and they haven’t for years”.  Their politically motivated decisions are not based on data or evidence and seem to reflect “personal opinions and agendas”.  

The public has been rendered paralysed as a result of years of uncertainty, fear and outright confusion.  Where will this end?  It can’t end well unless we demand accountability.  Demoralized citizens tend to feel disconnected and neutralized.  Who can blame them?  Will it take people being pushed to their limit to react?    

What is our limit?  We have already been forced to accept an 80% increase in housing costs in the last five years due to government fiscal mismanagement.  Provincial laws have banned winter rentals, removing important and long standing available low-cost rental housing.  Our ferries are clearly not functioning normally.  We are watching our local economy head towards disaster through the overt cancellation by the Islands Trust of important sources of livelihoods – without regard to who gets hurt and completely ignoring due process throughout!  Our governments have invested vast amounts of money in luxury projects while community necessities have been totally ignored.  Our young people have been robbed of hope for a stable future.  A society that does not provide for future generations is a failure.  We cannot solve the world’s problems but we can address the first level of government that has broken the public contract we have with them.

The Community Charter, one of the laws that regulate the Islands Trust Corporation, states that municipal governments “serve at the will of the residents”.  If the Islands Trust is not serving our community needs by refusing to follow due process and the law, we have a responsibility and an obligation to formally remove them.  The long road back to functional government has to start somewhere.