Compiled by ASK Salt Spring volunteer GAYLE BAKER.
Q. This virus has highlighted the imperative of a living space for all. What can we do to encourage the province to support the tiny home model so successful in other communities?
A. The provincial government has recently announced a comprehensive program to provide short-term housing for people in our community that are experiencing homelessness and who need to uphold physical distancing requirements. The BC Green Caucus has advocated for housing-first models, and this is a positive step forward. As the public health emergency passes and we are considering options for the economic recovery, the provincial government will have an important opportunity to develop long-term programs that address housing and the associated supports to provide people the solid foundation they need to build.
Tiny homes are a housing solution that I have long advocated. I have met with Hon. Selina Robinson (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing) to discuss the challenges tiny home advocates are experiencing. There are municipal zoning and building code restrictions that the ministry needs to resolve in order to realize the full potential of tiny homes as one option on a spectrum of housing solutions. Going forward, I will continue to advocate for government to seriously consider these options.
Q. Why do Burgoyne, Maxwell, or even Ruckle — except the campground — need to be closed until May 31 as usage is less than in other provincial parks and social distancing could easily be maintained?
A. The provincial government made the decision to close BC Parks. When they made the decision, the public health and safety goals were to get people to follow all the orders and recommendations 100 per cent. Officials did not want people to venture out of their homes and into the wilderness and decided to close all parks as a result. At that time they did not want to strain the public health system with unnecessary visits to medical centres and also wanted to protect search and rescue teams from the potential exposure to COVID-19.
I expect announcements to be made in the coming weeks as our public health and safety officials consider how to begin lifting restrictions safely and without burdening fragile healthcare infrastructure.
Q. What can we do to get our long-overdue roads upgrades? For decades we have gotten only patchwork repairs which have not lasted.
A. Roads on the Southern Gulf Islands are definitely problematic. The challenge is province-wide. During budget estimates for the Ministry of Transportation in the past three years, I and my colleagues from around the province consistently raise road conditions and maintenance budgets. The answers are not what we want to hear. In general terms, we do not have the financial capacity to keep up with maintenance and re-surfacing that is needed.
In addition to addressing the broader transportation budget, I and my constituency team meet regularly with the local ministry officials to advocate for the budgets that have been allocated to the South Vancouver Island region to be invested in roads in Saanich North and the Islands. I encourage you to continue to contact my office with your advocacy so I can carry the issues forward to government.
Q. Concerning the recent incident in which a cargo ship bumped into another ship in the Salish Sea and entangled anchors, why are there no restrictions for ships in our small, shared Salish Sea?
A. Anchorages and shipping continue to be a major source of frustration for residents in the Southern Gulf Islands and Indigenous communities around the Salish Sea. This is a federal government jurisdiction through Transport Canada. I have met with residents, local government officials, the Chamber of Shipping, and MP Elizabeth May. I have also written to both Hon. Marc Garneau (Minister of Transport) and Hon. Doug Donaldson (Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development) to discuss options for better organizing ship movements in the Salish Sea. So far no action has been taken. It is deeply frustrating to me considering the federal government is proposing to dramatically increase oil tanker shipments and to expand the Roberts Bank terminal.
In my letter to Minister Garneau, I suggested that the federal government needs to invest in permanent mooring locations with buoys and shore power. While this is an expensive endeavour, one could argue that the financial value of the products imported and exported would justify the investment. It would be a sign of goodwill as they are asking to increase the activity that is causing environmental and social challenges. Currently there are no rules regulating ships at anchor in Canadian waters, and that needs to change!
Q. Our climate has clearly benefitted from this period of self-isolation. What are you doing to institute initiatives so that we do not return to our old environmentally unsustainable habits?
A. We are at a critical time. The decisions we make now will determine the society we build for the future. I have raised the issues of consumption, loss of biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, and our relationship to nature many times in the legislature.
Serious climate action was a primary condition of the BC Green Caucus in our Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA) with the BC NDP. The result of that work is CleanBC. Unfortunately, the government has also been increasing emissions through their support for liquefied natural gas expansion.
However, the economic recovery from COVID-19 represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in the future we want. We are working with the BC NDP to ensure the coming investments are in line with their commitments in the CASA, creating jobs that are good for the environment, and in line with our commitments in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. This work is the primary focus of the BC Green Caucus legislative team!
Q. What important legislative initiatives have been delayed by this crisis?
A. There are many initiatives that have been delayed. Action to get ICBC back on track and reforms to the forestry industry are two priority areas that have been slowed down as a result of COVID-19. On the Southern Gulf Islands, my continuing commitment to protect trees and develop a mechanism to protect the last remaining stands of Coastal Douglas-fir is an initiative that has, unfortunately, suffered due to our necessary work in other policy areas.
Interested in Zooming? From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. this coming Friday, May 8, ASK Salt Spring’s guest, Gary Holman, will be joined by Charles Nash, our Emergency Program coordinator, and David Norget, mental health professional as well as co-chair of the Salt Spring Health Advancement Network. To participate click: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86327738888.
Send your questions for Islands Trustee Laura Patrick to email@example.com by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12.