Salt Spring candidates answer four questions

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As part of the Driftwood’s local election coverage, we asked the six Salt Spring Islands Trust candidates and two Capital Regional District candidates to answer four questions, touching on their personal attributes, the top issues and their plans, if elected.

Islands Trust candidates are Sabrina Ali, Kylie Coates, Peter Grove, Howard Holzapfel, Darryl Martin and Laura Patrick. The CRD candidates are Gary Holman and Robin Williams.

Candidates have also answered in writing a number of questions put to them by the Community Alliance, an ad hoc, non-partisan group that formed following last fall’s incorporation referendum. Members have been working on recommendations for how to improve the way governance and other matters function on Salt Spring Island. Answers are available through the www.communityalliance.org website or https://bit.ly/2zZUff3.

Voters can also see candidates in action at an all-candidates meeting tonight (Oct. 10) at ArtSpring from 7 to 9:30 p.m., or through a video posted on the www.gulfislandsdriftwood.com website on Thursday.

SABRINA ALI

Q. Describe three attributes or skills you have that you think will contribute the most to your effectiveness as a local politician, if elected.

A. My legal and political education and experience contributes to an understanding of the framework within which the Islands Trust operates and the specific language used in those circles. This enables me to be very effective in building consensus and in pursuing those initiatives that are priorities.

I’m a quick learner. I have occupied a lot of different roles in my life and each one came with its own learning curve.

I’m passionate about the mandate of the Islands Trust particularly. This is not just another elected position to me. I would love a chance to contribute to ecological governance and mindful community building. These have long been passions of mine.

Q. What priorities do you have for the first year of your term?

A. 1) In terms of process, to have monthly town hall meetings, with the attendance of the six governing bodies with exclusive jurisdiction in their area at least twice a year, and increased consultation with the First Nations upon whose traditional territory we live.

2) In terms of issues, the housing crisis has reached emergency proportions. I would like to do my best to see how I can contribute to a solution. In this context, I would also like to contribute to a Comprehensive Seasonal Occupancy Strategy.

Q. How do you think the Islands Trust can help address the island’s affordable housing crisis?

A. 1) I would encourage those initiatives already in place.

2) In the short term, as it is getting colder and rainier and I know there are at least two senior women living in their vehicles, I would like to pursue the idea of a landlord-tenant matching service to open suites that aren’t currently rented due to a bad past experience with a tenant.

3) In the longer term, mindful zoning initiatives, such as cottage housing, secondary suites, cluster housing and density bonuses, would be my priority. These balance the need for sustainable water, waste, transportation and emotional well-being management with the urgent need for shelter.

4) To achieve affordable, safe and sustainable shelter, we can ensure our bylaws are aligned with our goals as set out in the Official Community Plan.

Q. Do you think it is possible to strike a balance between preserving and protecting the natural environment and providing for the community’s economic and social needs? Share your thoughts on how this can be done or why it cannot be done.

A. Absolutely, because the spirit here is one of innovation, of fairness, and of compassion and personal generosity.

My activist experience has taught me that people with a vision, committed to shared principles, can accomplish their dreams. Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Mother Teresa were able to accomplish what seemed impossible because of the strength of their vision.

My personal experience has shown me that any vision is manifested with mindful intention and articulation and action. I put myself through seven consecutive years of university. I was able to back pack in Africa and in South East Asia, despite having spent all my resources on my education. I started my own law firm in downtown Vancouver. I have been a triathlete, and many other things.

I am now running for election with an organization that is mandated to accomplish ecological governance and mindful community development, lifelong passions of mine.

Where there is political and community will there will always be a way.

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KYLIE COATES

Q. Describe three attributes or skills you have that you think will contribute the most to your effectiveness as a local politician, if elected.

A. From an early age I was raised on a farm and learned the value of a hard day’s work and the value of a dollar.

Another skill I have is being able to leave my ego at the door. I can talk and listen to anyone, and I can also admit when I’m wrong.

I’ve worked for large and small companies. For example, I spent two years assisting with building the patient care facility at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria and have also performed private contracting work for the Department of Defence (Canadian Navy & Army). So I am used to teamwork situations, as well as managing my own time. Due to the nature of both of these jobs, I was expected to, and did, pass a background security check.

Q.  What priorities do you have for the first year of your term?

A. In my first year I would like to open up communications with the other government bodies of Salt Spring to collectively develop a plan for affordable housing projects and water management, as well as other issues concerning all of us.

Q. H ow do you think the Islands Trust can help address the island’s affordable housing crisis?

A. Right now there are five affordable housing projects being planned for Salt Spring. I would recommend we concentrate on the most feasible two and request the other three to stand down and get behind the other two for right now while we get the first two projects built.

I would also like to institute a moratorium on the Islands Trust preventing employers from providing temporary shelter for their employees (i.e., trailers, basement suites and tents) while there is a housing crisis going on, in order to allow those employed to stay employed, and providing much-needed staffing for businesses having difficulty securing staff due to lack of housing.

Q. Do you think it is possible to strike a balance between preserving and protecting the natural environment and providing for the community’s economic and social needs? Share your thoughts on how this can be done or why it cannot be done.

I believe that most islanders respect and appreciate the natural beauty that Salt Spring is so fortunate to have, and that is why they choose to live here. Most will fight vehemently to preserve and protect. We have a population that is most passionate on the subject, and with many other community models out there to emulate, I see no reason why we cannot have both a thriving community as well as being able to maintain and protect the natural beauty and resources we hold so dear.

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PETER GROVE – Islands Trust

Q. Describe three attributes or skills you have that you think will contribute the most to your effectiveness as a local politician, if elected.

A. Experience: I have been a trustee for seven years and therefore bring significant experience to the position. There are many projects and applications in progress which I would like to see completed.

Collaborative: I work well with others and seek common ground in decision making. I look for the best in people. I have a proven ability to work with individuals, groups and the community, facilitating communication, encouraging collaboration and cooperation.

Training: As a chartered accountant I have strong financial and management skills. As a mediator I am skilled at working with others. As an arbitrator I know how to make tough decisions.

Q. What priorities do you have for the first year of your term?

A. To continue working with the CRD and the provincial government to address homelessness on our island; to encourage and support affordable housing projects that meet our island’s requirements; to update the OCP, particularly to address housing needs and the realities of climate change; to develop an integrated, strategic long-range plan for the island, working with other agencies; to lobby the provincial government for changes to the building code which would enable the use of rainwater harvesting for multi-family residential housing; to pursue more effective local government working with community groups, the CRD, the provincial government, improvement districts and First Nations.

Q. How do you think the Islands Trust can help address the island’s affordable housing crisis?

A. The Islands Trust represents 13 island groups and some 25,000 people. It has a  strong voice and advocates on many issues of importance to islanders. It is in a strong position to advocate for changes to the building code and to Island Health’s building requirements, which are presenting challenges to multi-residential projects. At the local level the LTC can work with the CRD and applicants to zone properties to allow for their projects. The LTC does not have the ability or powers to develop its own housing; it must work collaboratively with those who have.

Q. Do you think it is possible to strike a balance between preserving and protecting the natural environment and providing for the community’s economic and social needs? Share your thoughts on how this can be done or why it cannot be done.

A. Certainly. We need housing to support young families who serve the community and for our aging population. There is a housing shortage which is being addressed with creative and environmentally sensitive projects. Increasing densities in village areas, cluster and cottage housing, and the use of secondary suites and seasonal cottages for long-term rentals will all contribute to easing the current crisis.

We all value our natural environment. For most of us, that is why we are here. So any development must be thoughtfully and carefully carried out, protecting natural resources and the landscape. As noted above, we need a long-term integrated strategic plan for the island and an OCP review where such matters can be addressed.

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HOWARD HOLZAPFEL

Q. Describe three attributes or skills you have that you think will contribute the most to your effectiveness as a local politician, if elected.

A. My professional career has been devoted to doing business turnarounds. For companies in distress, I’ve been hired to do quick assessments and find solutions – to do a fast turnaround. Most of my career has been spent in real estate, planning, construction and broadcasting. I’m happy that, in my experience with land-use planning, I’ve managed to always uphold my values for environmental protection and community integrity. My family has lived on Salt Spring since 2010 and I continue to keep both my real estate broker’s and general contractor’s license active through payment of fees and continuing education courses. I am a good listener and will address your concerns.

Q. What priorities do you have for the first year of your term?

A. In my first year in office I will review zoning on all developable and re-developable parcels on the island and review land use and see how it fits or not into the Trust’s mandate. I would like to have more community engagement with respect to growth over the next 20 years. I want to see a balance maintained so that all residents have options for affordable housing. I would like to bring in and support cost-effective programs for rain water harvesting, water and energy conservation — with a major emphasis on community education and support.

Q. How do you think the Islands Trust can help address the island’s affordable housing crisis?

A. I know great people, tenants who would be forced off the island if their rentals were sold. I believe Salt Spring’s future depends on finding good solutions for the affordability crisis.

With respect to the vacation rental issue I believe the best way forward involves regulation, using taxation from these rentals to help pay for affordable housing.

Affordable housing cannot be solved unless all agencies are brought to the table, meet monthly and resolve issues (Trust, CRD, water, fire, schools) and members of the wider community as well. I’m disappointed to learn that the Meadowlane seniors housing project presented a proposal for water provision which was rejected by the water district. I would like to work to make Meadowlane and other valuable projects viable, to reach workable solutions.

Several months ago I presented a plan to the fire board to create affordable housing for paid-on-call members at fire halls two and three. I asked Fire Chief Arjuna George to poll the staff, the response was positive. Benefits for employees and the wider community include: stabilizing membership by having affordable housing; providing a faster emergency response time for the south and central parts of our island; providing security for unoccupied fire halls.

Q. Do you think it is possible to strike a balance between preserving and protecting the natural environment and providing for the community’s economic and social needs? Share your thoughts on how this can be done or why it cannot be done.

A. It is not only possible to move forward while respecting the preserve and protect mandate, it is essential. For this, community engagement and support are key. No one candidate can solve all the island’s issues.

And each person has something to contribute. Part of my role is to help people bring the best they have to offer to land-use planning decisions. I want to contribute to the ongoing efforts to protect the environment and the community we love, in a way that works with the various forces of change we encounter.

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LAURA PATRICK

Q. Describe three attributes or skills you have that you think will contribute the most to your effectiveness as a local politician, if elected. 

A. I work and collaborate well with others. I have an ability to find and communicate a balance between what is often perceived as extremes. I can think, feel and judge with empathy, and I care about the consequences of the decisions I make.

Q. What priorities do you have for the first year of your term? 

A. There is much that can and should be done. My priorities for the first year of my term as a local trustee are to:

• Improve coordination and collaboration with other governments and agencies that have an influence on local planning and services. The highest priority will be to develop an understanding of the housing crisis and  develop a cohesive strategy for communications, actions and resources to address the crisis;

• Direct staff to review the many existing reports, surveys and studies that identify affordable housing innovation and best practices appropriate to our community, and to recommend steps for implementation;

• Improve public communication of Islands Trust requirements and processes;

• Engage our community in determining Islands Trust priorities and develop ways to measure progress;

• Review lessons learned from the previous Official Community Plan update and engage stakeholders in developing a plan to update the OCP;

• Evaluate the success of the Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance and initiate consultation to determine if it can or should evolve into a Trust Area-wide conservation authority; and

• Listen to the needs of our island’s businesses and farmers about finding innovative land-use solutions that recognize their valued contributions.

Q. How do you think the Islands Trust can help address the island’s affordable housing crisis? 

A. The Islands Trust can:

• Take leadership to bring the CRD and all other island organizations with housing mandates together to develop a cohesive strategy. This includes holding joint community forums that build on what we already know to find innovative solutions;

• Direct staff to review the many reports, surveys and studies that have already been completed that identify affordable housing innovation and best practices appropriate to our community, and to recommend steps for implementation, including making amendments to the Land Use Bylaw to remove unacceptable encumbrances to farmworker housing, secondary suites and cottages;

• Strongly advocate to senior levels of government, especially the CRD and BC Housing, for a unique housing strategy with dedicated funding, and for decision-making specific to the Southern Gulf Islands.

Q. Do you think it is possible to strike a balance between preserving and protecting the natural environment and providing for the community’s economic and social needs?

A. I believe it is possible to sustain a healthy, vibrant community that is in harmony with the natural environment. Instead of fearing damage to our natural environment, Salt Spring can be a model community that attracts attention for its preservation and conservation culture, innovative green initiatives and technologies. We must first work together to measure and monitor what is important to sustain the social fabric of our island community (e.g., housing, food, water, healthcare) along with ecological indicators (e.g., biodiversity, water quality, protected land). This information helps us make decisions based on evidence and to shape our future through better planning.

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DARRYL MARTIN

Q. Describe three attributes or skills you have that you think will contribute the most to your effectiveness as a local politician, if elected. 

A. My understanding of the island’s unique and complex government structure will contribute to my effectiveness as a trustee. I have gained this understanding through working inside that system. For five years I have served on the Salt Spring Community Economic Development Commission, as commissioner, vice -chair and chairperson. Two years ago I also accepted the role of alternate to the CRD director, which provided me the opportunity to participate as Salt Spring’s voting member in a small but broad sample of CRD meetings here and in Victoria.

During my terms as CEDC chair, we were successful in persuading the province to recognize for the first time that, despite its affiliation with the urban CRD, Salt Spring should be entitled access to a rural development fund; and we identified that the housing shortage had worsened to the point it was impeding the island’s economy. (We tasked a newly arrived commissioner with doing a survey of the shortage, which confirmed its importance and resulted in the CEDC making presentations to the Trust and CRD.)

It will be of great help to me as trustee that I have been engaged with Salt Spring since the early 1990s, and learned about its character, first as a part-timer with a cottage here, then for the past five years as a full-time resident. As Salt Spring’s founding member of the Tour des Iles project, I have had the opportunity to engage with the nearby Southern Gulf Islands.

My education and prior work experience have provided me with leadership and management skills. I graduated in mechanical engineering, augmented by additional coursework in management and economics, and worked in manufacturing and economic development fields, among others.

Q. What priorities do you have for the first year of your term? 

A. My first year priorities are housing and fire. Decisive action by the Trust must be taken to moderate the workforce housing crisis. The Trust has the power to do many things to achieve this goal. Among them:

• Pass a bylaw to allow a significant number cottages to be built, that may be used for full-time rental. Specifically, modify the recently introduced Bylaw 512 to make a larger number of units possible, and specify that rainwater catchment may be used to meet the water requirement if the unit will be used by local workers;

• Closely monitor the Trust process to ensure that affordable housing projects like Croftonbrook, Drake Road etc. are not held up by Trust requirements;

• Work in vigorous cooperation with our MLA, CRD and others to reduce other impediments to affordable housing. For example, advocate with the provincial government to allow a Salt Spring approach to landlord-tenant disputes. (I have heard from some local property owners that the current legislation discourages them from offering property for rental.)

Wildfire management will be the other high priority in my first year. In view of the dangerously dry conditions of the last two summers, the Trust’s “preserve and protect” mandate requires it to take action to prevent wildfires or mitigate their effect. In cooperation with the fire district, CRD emergency planning and others, we should take steps to encourage distributed water storage, establish fire interruption zones and improve emergency escape routes.

Q. How do you think the Islands Trust can help address the island’s affordable housing crisis? 

A. Generally, I will work to ensure the Trust and residents recognize that adequate supply of a variety of workforce housing is essential to preserving and protecting the character of the island for its residents. See my answer to the second question, above, for more specifics.

Q. Do you think it is possible to strike a balance between preserving and protecting the natural environment and providing for the community’s economic and social needs?

A. Yes, it is very possible to preserve the Salt Spring natural environment while meeting economic and social needs. Salt Spring has an abundance of knowledge and talent in all three of these areas: environment, economy and social. A healthy balance can be found by bringing this talent together with the various facets of our community to develop a way forward that most residents can agree on. If I become a trustee, the Trust, with its mandate and experience in developing official community plans, will be an effective and cooperative partner in this exciting process.

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Capital Regional District director positions

GARY HOLMAN

Q. Describe three attributes or skills you have that you think will contribute the most to your effectiveness as a local politician, if elected. 

A. Thirty years of commitment to Salt Spring and a record of accomplishment as a community activist, CRD Director and MLA. A proven ability to collaborate with others to achieve common goals. Finally, my past work with (now) provincial ministers and senior CRD officials, and an understanding of how the CRD can better support our amazing volunteers and community groups. 

Q. What are your priorities for the first year of your term? 

A. Meet with CRD staff, commissions and the Electoral Area Services Committee for briefings on projects and issues. Attend Local Trust Committee town halls. Hold regular meetings with local trustees to determine joint CRD-Trust priorities, including the establishment of an inter-agency working group and Local Community Commission (see below). The seven affordable housing projects currently underway on Salt Spring will be my top priority, particularly the CRD Drake Road project (see below).

The 2018 CRD budget has received preliminary board approval, but I will review it carefully with CRD commissions and staff, and hold a public meeting before final CRD Board approval next March.

In 2019, we can complete pedestrian and cycling pathways around Ganges with already approved funding; expand public transit; identify an on-island liquid waste solution; develop plans for a new fire hall and keeping the Ganges hall public; and secure the harbourwalk right-of-way. I will hold roundtables with senior CRD staff, commission chairs and community groups to resolve reported difficulties, and move forward initiatives like: updating climate plans; composting green waste; establishing commercial charging stations; the community health centre; community radio; The Root food processing centre; and a public laundromat.          

Q. How can the CRD help to address the island’s affordable housing crisis?

A. The seven projects already underway, all with land secured and representing over 250 units, including the CRD Drake Road project, will have the biggest impact. The CRD can assist by providing and advocating for senior government funding, as well as supporting services such as potable water, road improvements, walking/cycling paths, and waste disposal. The CRD should strengthen support for our Salt Spring Island Housing Council, which can help facilitate and eventually develop projects. The CRD should work with community groups to help establish secure housing and supporting services for the homeless, and partner with a proposed “hotel tax” to establish workforce housing. I support continued pro-active enforcement of bylaws banning STVRs, and a collaborative CRD/Trust process to regularize non-conforming, low-impact housing.    

Q. Do you support creation of a Local Community Commission? Why or why not? 

A. Yes. I participated in the Community Alliance Governance Working Group and Positively Forward reports recommending an elected-at-large LCC to broaden local CRD representation, share the CRD director workload, improve service coordination, and assume more operational authority from the CRD. These reports don’t support conferring more authority to individual CRD commissions that would reinforce the already “siloed” nature of service delivery, but rather an LCC elected to represent the broad public interest. A local committee, appointed by Salt Spring Island’s locally elected officials, could develop bylaws defining the composition, mandate and budget of an LCC, to be approved by the CRD Board and then put to local voters, similar to the incorporation process. If the referendum succeeds, candidates for CRD director and local community commissioners would run in the next election.   

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ROBIN WILLIAMS

Q. Describe 3 attributes or skills you have that you think will contribute the most to your effectiveness as a local politician, if elected.

A. I have 38 years extensive experience in public affairs and 33 years in business. I was a student politician who was introduced to senior-level government at a young age and have stayed involved ever since. I went on to build a business, to make payroll, but always contributed back as a volunteer community leader using my managerial and financial expertise.

I am a patient but persistent person, which has been demonstrated on my work creating the Ganges Harbourwalk Steering Committee. We will get the “boardwalk” completed in a win-win-win manner, including First Nations involvement.

I am unique in my local government experience having served six years on the transportation commission, four as chair, and serving as an appointed trustee of the Islands Trust Conservancy and as their designate to the Trust Financial Planning Committee. 

Q. What are your priorities for the first year of your term?

A. My first priority is to regain the respect and confidence of the CRD Board. This was lost after the incidents involving PARC from 2005–2008. I will return PARC to a management commission and will implement the recommendations of the 2007 KPMG report to give all CRD commissions training and support.

I will have two alternates with delegated authority. The first will handle water utility issues as we work towards an accommodation with North Salt Spring Waterworks District. The second will handle PARC, trails and nature, and regional parks. Over the last 22 years, Salt Spring has provided Regional Parks with approximately $9 million and received the cold shoulder in return. I want to see a multimillion dollar commitment to the regional trail starting with funding for Ganges Hill.

Finally, I will appoint a “Housing that is Affordable” champion. This will be a person who is dedicated to making a breakthrough on affordable housing. I already have a candidate in mind and will pay them one dollar a year from my own pocket.

Q. How can the CRD help to address the island’s affordable housing crisis?

A. To really create housing that is affordable we need to look at land density. I believe an opportunity exists to design and construct a world-class housing zone in the upper Drake Road area, including the currently stalled CRD/SD64 project. I intend to lobby for a seat for Salt Spring on the Island Health board. Island Health control many issues related to affordable housing, such as water and mental health subsidies. I currently serve on three affordable housing groups.

Q. Do you support creation of a Local Community Commission? Why or why not?

A. I am neutral on the idea of an LCC. It is currently the subject of an interesting discussion and I would like to hear more. It does seem to be a solution looking for a problem. Where the CRD problem really lies is in the relationship with the staff and administration in Victoria. Since 2008 Salt Spring has seen the administrative staff take more and more control. I intend to bring decision-making back to the island. I also feel there is an urgent need to form a Financial Planning Committee that includes all tax collection parties and those with significant financial impact. We need an island budget, not siloed budgetting.

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