Salt Spring voters chose the tried and true in electing an incumbent Islands Trust trustee and Capital Regional District (CRD) director in Saturday’s election, but also opted for a change in CRD governance via referendum.
Gary Holman was returned as CRD director and Laura Patrick as trustee, with Jamie Harris also elected to the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee.
Patrick topped the Islands Trust polls with 1,441 votes and Harris was in second place, receiving 1,347 votes. Harris’ running mate Don Marcotte came third with 1,286 votes, followed by Gary Gagné with 1,141 votes; Elissa Poole, 1,125; Ben Corno, 1,059; and Jenny McClean, 235.
In the CRD race, Holman received 1,917 votes, Jesse Brown 971 votes and Kylie Coates 941.
A proposal to change the island’s governance system to create a local community commission under the CRD passed by a large margin, with 2,297 voting in favour and 1,448 against.
Elected to represent Salt Spring on the Gulf Islands school board are incumbents Tisha Boulter (1,486 votes) and Rob Pingle (2,005 votes), and Nancy MacDonald (1,981 votes). Jenny McClean received 1,101 votes and Anna Szul 636. Even though George Sipos had formally removed himself from the race, his name was still on the ballot and he attracted 561 votes.
A total of 3,916 ballots were cast in the on-island polls at Community Gospel Chapel, the library and Fulford Hall. With 10,041 registered resident and non-resident property-owning voters, according to local returning officer Tony Kennedy, that makes for a voter turnout rate of 39 per cent. Kennedy said the 10,041 figure does not include new registrations, which is not a large number. Approximately 30 people also voted off-island or by mail.
Patrick said she was honoured to have been re-elected by Salt Spring voters and thanked them for the confidence and faith they had in her.
“I want to congratulate Jamie Harris on his well-earned victory,” she added. “Salt Spring voters are saying that they want the Islands Trust to do a much better job on housing, the environment and how we manage and solve issues together. I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work with Jamie on these critical issues.”
First-time trustee Harris said he was excited about his new position and looking forward to working with incumbent Patrick.
“I’m sure we can find some major common ground, and I’m excited for Salt Spring, honestly,” he said.
“Hopefully we can really get something happening here in regards to workforce housing, and that it happens sooner rather than later. It’s clear we need that. We need workforce housing projects to get started as soon as possible and have provisions made ASAP regarding rezoning or adding on to existing zoning.”
The aim would be to have a few projects well underway before the four-year term is up, he said.
“We’ve got so much room for positive improvement here. It’s a matter of allowing forward movement to happen and not holding it back.”
Harris said it will also be interesting to see what happens regarding possible review or restructuring of the Islands Trust as a whole, in light of the Great Northern Management governance review report and Trust Council’s request for the provincial government to look at changing the Islands Trust Act.
Returning CRD director Holman said it was “an honour to be elected again to represent the engaged citizenry of this island.”
He thanked Kylie Coates and Jesse Brown “for their positive campaigns. I know that both of them will be continuing their good work in our community.” He also said he looked forward to working with the elected Islands Trust and school board trustees.
“I’m particularly pleased with the decisive referendum result in support of a local community commission (LCC), which will broaden CRD representation beyond the CRD director, and be much more transparent and accountable to voters.”
Holman noted there will be significant turnover at the CRD Board due to the election results, but said the new CRD chief administrative officer, Ted Robbins, is very familiar with CRD utilities on Salt Spring as the former senior manager of CRD Integrated Water Services.
Holman also thanked Bob Lapham, who he said “has been CRD’s very capable CAO for the past decade and a senior manager before that. I owe him a debt of gratitude for his guidance and support through the years.”
Gayle Baker, chair of the LCC Advisory Committee, which took on an advocacy role for the LCC proposal, said “the hardworking volunteers who so tirelessly spread the word about the benefits of an LCC are thrilled by its decisive approval. Stay tuned for the election of our local commissioners this spring.”
Under the terms of the CRD bylaw that received approval on Saturday, four LCC members will be chosen by Salt Spring voters in a forthcoming election, and then in subsequent local government elections every four years.
School trustees are grateful for the chance to serve as well.
“I feel deep gratitude for the privilege and opportunity to work alongside an amazing team in service of public education for another four years,” said Tisha Boulter, who is the most recent school board chair. “I look forward to witnessing the successes and identifying areas of our learning edge so we can action positive growth. Thank you to all who voted for me and entrusting me in this role.”
MacDonald, who was also a school trustee from 2014 to 2018, said she looks forward to working with the new board.
“I get a sense that families want to see positive action and transparency. The community often doesn’t know what the board does, so we will need to ensure really good communication and share information as much as possible.”
She also said it will be important to address wellness, student success and community expectations. Key issues to resolve include shortages of staff.
“I will have, as always, a positive mindset in discussions with the new team.”
Pingle, who was first elected trustee in 2008, said he was humbled by the support he received.
“This last term was very challenging and I heard from many people that the board could do better. I’m grateful that the people of Salt Spring believe that I am a person who can continue to help the board do better. I look forward to these next four years of improvement in our school district.”