Viewpoint: Trust area community needs differ

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By STEVE WRIGHT

As the target of lobbying groups, and personal and editorial comments which have misunderstood and mischaracterized the intent of my motions to Trust Council earlier this month, I’m surprised no one has taken the time to contact me to find out what was their purpose. 

I did reach out to Rhonan Heitzmann of Salt Spring Solutions but he did not take up my offer to discuss their intent. It is also disappointing that Jason Mogus did not contact me to ensure he had the facts straight before starting his lobbying efforts. 

Any suggestion that I am in any way “anti-affordable housing” or “anti-community” is untrue and nothing in the motions leads to those conclusions. Nor is there anything I have said or written that diminishes the need for a variety of housing, including lower-cost housing. 

I understand housing is a critical issue on Salt Spring and I admire trustee Laura Patrick’s attention and efforts on her community’s behalf. What I fail to see is how any reference to community needs in council documents is going to assist her in that effort or make any difference to local communities simply by having those issues at the council level. The Local Government Act directs them to be addressed at the local level, not by council. 

The inclusion of community matters in the policy statement or the strategic plan will have no demonstrable effect within communities other than draining resources away from local Trust committees (LTCs), which could be better used to facilitate their efforts. No blanket policy endorsed by council will fit all islands or solve their individual problems. If they did, then consider that those policies have been in effect since 1994 and perhaps that in itself indicates how successful they have been. Their placement on successive strategic plans have not produced any measurable solutions. If we have any hope of resolving these critical issues we will need actions rather than platitudes. I believe community groups, of which Salt Spring has a number of articulate and resourceful organizations, will have more creative solutions that better reflect their own needs than offered by Trust Council.

Policies are powerless by themselves. Council has no real means of enforcing LTCs to enact council policy. So what other purpose is there, other than to create more work for staff and some false sense of accomplishment by council members, to include these matters in council documents? What my motions suggested is council should focus its attention on ensuring that the environment, rural character and natural resources are not adversely affected by the infrastructure needed to support community needs. That should be council’s priority. Community needs should be the priority of LTCs.

The result of council’s decision to defeat motions to prioritize the environment in the decisions made by trustees is something worth noting.

In closing, I am fully aware that being elected opens one up to criticism and I have no problem with that, but I would prefer it is about something I actually did or said. 

The writer is a South Pender Island Local Trust Committee member.

1 Comment
  1. Jason Mogus says

    Way to further confuse the issue! Steve’s opinion article mentions little about what his intent with the motions was, only criticizes those of us who saw them as a clear threat to recent momentum on affordable housing.

    Folks can wade through the Islands Trust documents but allow me to summarize:

    * Motion 1: remove affordable housing from the priority list of the Trust
    * Motion 2: remove community from the mandate of the Islands Trust, to only focus on the environment

    Here is the agenda package: http://www.islandstrust.bc.ca/media/351065/tc_2021_03_09-11_agd_pkg_final.pdf

    You can decide what these motions mean.

    Finally, our response was informed by speaking with other Trustees many times, who had been closely tracking this issue for a while. As the motions were already filed – no one contacted the affordable housing movement to see how we felt about them – we had to act quickly and didn’t feel like it made sense to reach out to the aggressor.

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