Friday’s ASK Salt Spring session provided a chance for islanders to provide feedback about both items contained in the draft Islands Trust Policy Statement (TPS) and the process itself after calls of alarm went out on social media about a June 15 Trust Programs Committee meeting.
About 50 people came to the United Church meadow for the first ASK Salt Spring meeting held outdoors since last fall with Salt Spring trustee Laura Patrick as the guest.
Their message to Patrick and trustee Peter Grove, who also attended but was not the scheduled ASK Salt Spring guest, was to tell Trust Council to not give first reading to a new Trust Policy Statement bylaw as scheduled for July 8.
People expressed concerns primarily about a proposed ban on future docks that has appeared in a draft TPS document, but also mentioned a policy that suggests desalination plants not be considered, and sections about agriculture and forestry uses.
But feeling they had not been asked for specific input into the TPS revision and that the process was being rushed when no in-person public meetings could be held due to COVID-19 were also major concerns.
“Zoom meetings — that’s not public at all,” commented one meeting attendee. “This sounds like a COVID push-through that nobody can have a say in.”
A full Trust Council meeting to discuss a policy statement draft and consider giving it first reading has been set for Thursday, July 8 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition to that meeting, Trust Council has set aside two hours the night before to gather public input. A June 18 press release outlines how individuals will be given two minutes to speak in a town hall meeting held via Zoom from 7 to 9 p.m.
“Based on the feedback I am seeing from these people I would highly recommend that you take it back to your council and to your committees and suggest that you put a hold on first reading and get all of the feedback you need to make something effective and efficient and friendly and easy,” observed island resident Harry Poliak. “Start from there and then get the feedback and put your first reading in with the voice of the people. Otherwise what is happening is you’re bringing a lot of energy into your first reading and it’s going to be a kibosh.”
Patrick sympathized with people’s concerns and said she would represent their views to Trust Council, but stressed that first reading is just the start of the process.
“Some of the messages that are out there on social media are saying ‘First reading is it, you can’t change it again,’” she said. “That’s not true. First reading is the introduction. It’s the introduction for me. It’s the introduction for all of us. Then it’s fair. We are working on a draft that we can all see and we can all comment on. Peter [Grove] and I want to hear from all of you. We want to have in-depth conversations.”
Gayle Baker, who organizes the weekly ASK Salt Spring events where the public can ask questions of officials from government or other agencies, also suggested Patrick and Grove advocate for first reading to be delayed.
“It is a scary thing for people and it might not be that important,” said Baker.
A Trust Council timeline has also pointed to public consultation on the policy statement taking place in September. Further readings and bylaw adoption would follow after that process was complete.
Information about the Trust Policy Statement review process, which was initiated almost two years ago, is available at https://islandstrust.bc.ca/programs/islands-2050/
For more on this story, see the June 23 issue of the Driftwood or updates on this website.
1. Last I knew, first reading was a process for a formal introduction of legislation or policy — it is *not* the start of public engagement or consultation; it is the end. A lot can change between first, second, and third readings, but what they present right now is what the Trustees *want passed right now.* If they actually wanted community input on policy updates they could just… put it on the web and publish responses!
2. A change to the Trust’s policy statement at large should not be combined with specific bylaw updates. That’s two *major* initiatives. Pass what the Trust wants added to its mandate, then write or update bylaws after. Smooshing the two things together into a massive omnibus take-it-or-leave-it governance document and consultation period (such as it is) seems (at best!) presumptuous. At worst it risks the success of both.
here is more info…better than IT link provided. https://islandstrust.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/TPC_2021-06-15_SM_AGD-PKG_FINAL.pdf?fbclid=IwAR08IC5qk-ywJ4PgVvwiNJZoEbGVxsTt4LF18UQ3Fu279vxzK9tow4ONmgU
I’m new to this project. Just read the draft policy statement. Reads like a public relations doc: generic feel-good language with hints of an underlying vision which, unfortunately, seems intent on turning the islands into a vacation retreat-museum using the pretext of environmental protection and cultural sensitivity. The CRD and the Trust have already started to stifle property improvement initiatives via over-regulation and onerous fees, which will drive up housing prices and limit housing availability, either driving out or driving underground island workers. A version of this vision has already happened in Vancouver, where I am from, turning a city for everyone into a ‘global city’ for the more affluent and cosmopolitan elites, driving resident workers to the outskirts and increasingly relying on imported migrant labourers. Most SSI business owners know how increasingly difficult it is to find staff due to unavailable and unaffordable housing. This will only get worse as local governments serve their exclusivist interests, while ironically claiming to pursue ‘inclusivist’ goals. I regret not being more involved in the public review process but as mentioned, Zoom meetings are just not good enough for providing public input.
I disagree with some of that, David (not the Vancouver stuff, that’s accurate ), but re access. And, granted, this is tangential to the article but matters even more when huge policy consultations and changes are in the offing: Zoom meetings are an *improvement,* particularly for people from smaller islands and pocketbooks.
The IT being headquartered in Victoria with the CAO and the majority of staff not living on the islands they write policy for is bad enough; requiring residents to travel to attend their meetings is a problem this helps solve. Not everyone has the right gear to join that way either, but it beats the ferries and a long drive, plus accommodations!
If the IT is committed to access they could, for example, equip a community hall on each island with a zoom-capable TV and internet, so that anyone could go and participate in all meetings.