By GARY HOLMAN, DAVE HOWE AND MIKE HICKS
Having been unfairly designated as “urban” by the province for over 50 years, the rural electoral areas of Salt Spring, Galiano, Mayne, Pender, and Saturna islands have been unable to access critical pandemic response and recovery rural granting programs, such as the Islands Coastal Economic Trust.
A recent letter advocating for our region to be officially designated as “rural” by the province has been sent to the Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness, Michele Mungall, and signed by all three electoral area directors. The letter maps out why our islands now more than ever need to become part of the Island Coastal Economic Trust, an organization that through community-centred decision-making funds and invests in a wide range of economic development and community-building initiatives from which our communities are currently excluded due to the CRD-urban designation.
The letter is provided below to inform islanders of the advocacy efforts underway.
Dear Minister Mungall,
The electoral area directors of the Capital Regional District are writing to urge your support for inclusion of the CRD electoral areas in the Islands Coastal Economic Trust (ICET).
As you know, we have been advocating for inclusion in ICET for years as a matter of consistency and fairness. More recently however, the economic impact of the COVID pandemic on many of our constituents has been as serious as on any other jurisdiction within ICET’s current area, reinforcing the rationale for access to this important funding source.
MLA Adam Olsen kindly shared the transcript of your discussion of this issue in a recent session of legislative estimates. We applaud the constructive tone of the discussion and your statement that CRD electoral areas are rural in nature. This is an important acknowledgment. The designation of CRD electoral areas seems to have been an obstacle to our inclusion in ICET.
It is our understanding that the board of ICET was consulted by your government and has expressed concern about dilution of the fund with inclusion of more participants. This is understandable, but in our view, our constituents have been unfairly precluded from access to ICET funding since its inception over a decade ago. Due to the economic impacts of necessary provincial and federal measures to stop the spread of COVID, we also urge you to renew funding for ICET as part of your proposed COVID economic recovery plan.
Our request is a matter of fairness and economic urgency. If we are truly “all in this together” we hope you will support a consistent treatment of rural areas in the Vancouver Island region, and include refurbishment of ICET funding as part of your proposed economic recovery plan.
Thank you for your leadership during these extraordinary times.
The writers are the electoral area directors to the CRD for Salt Spring Island, the Southern Gulf Islands and Juan de Fuca, respectively.