Work is underway to address issues connected to floating homes and boats in Ganges Harbour.
December saw multiple meetings in which people living in Ganges Harbour addressed politicians, stating their concerns over regulations and enforcement on the water. Water-based communities have faced regulatory challenges for years since multiple agencies and governments share varying levels of jurisdiction on the water and foreshore areas.
People living on the water attended both an ASK Salt Spring meeting and MLA Adam Olsen’s community meeting before the holidays to discuss their concerns about agencies enforcing regulations and possibly seizing vessels.
“There were high tensions around some of the rumours that Transport Canada was going to come and enforce,” Olsen said. “I told them I would follow up with Transport Canada and find out what their intentions were. [Transport Canada] made it clear to me that they had no intentions and that there are various levels of government that are involved. From the federal government’s perspective, it is the right of a boater to find safe harbour, to anchor and the moor.”
Since the issue is multi-faceted and involves various levels of government, Olsen has committed to organizing a meeting with all those involved with the harbour to come to a consensus on the issue.
“There is little use from the public’s perspective on the politicians all pointing their fingers at each other,” he said. “In order for us to be able to capture the attention of whatever level of government we’re talking to . . . [we need to show] that we’re all working together.”
The Islands Trust does have multiple zoning areas in the harbour, none of which have dwelling units as permitted uses. However, local trustee Laura Patrick acknowledged that any zone in the Trust area can be rezoned.
“Rezoning can happen anywhere,” she said. “I think this meeting is the first place to start, because it’s complicated. You’ve got the Harbour Authority, you’ve got the feds, the province, us, the marinas. It starts to get very complex, and we need to get everybody together and talk about a desire to move in that direction.”
For Patrick, non-legal housing on the water is part of the island’s broader accommodation challenge. She explained that any future housing work by local government should include liveaboards as part of its purview.Patrick would also like to ensure any regulations set up concerning liveaboards are applied to all harbours in the area, not just in Ganges Harbour.
Olsen said constituents were planning to attend federal MP Elizabeth May’s Jan. 17 town hall meeting to discuss the issue. In the meantime, Olsen will be reaching out to other levels of government in the coming weeks to organize a meeting with all involved.
“I think one of the most frustrating things from the public’s perspective is when they hear the politicians that they elect to the government to represent them saying ‘it’s not our responsibility, it’s somebody else’s responsibility,’” he said. “A group of elected officials are much stronger at getting the attention of whatever level of government is responsible.”