Monday, April 15, 2024
April 15, 2024

Viewpoint: We all need each other


We all live together on this very small island, and as things get increasingly hairy out there in the world, it would be good if we could find better ways of working across our relatively small differences. In science fiction stories it’s known not to shoot your laser inside a small spaceship, lest everyone suffer the consequences of a hole in the hull. 

Case in point: recent (and fairly constant) articles submitted by organizers trying to sink the accessory dwellings unit (ADU) affordable housing bylaw continue to use extreme language to make the idea and those supporting it look far bolder and more sinister than they really are. While I respect the intellect, rhetorical powers and good intentions of these passionate fellow activists, these claims create a lot of alarm and confusion as to what’s really going on. I’m not sure they would survive a peer review process either. 

Nowhere that ADUs have been allowed has seen over a 10 per cent uptake across the housing stock. No developers are lobbying to build small cottages and suites. All water and other restrictions, as well as continued incredibly high building costs, will greatly limit the number of ADUs that might actually get built on Salt Spring. 

To say with such certainty that ADU’s will “double the population” and “unleash mass private development” when there is no credible evidence supporting either statement doesn’t contribute to our community’s understanding of complex policy issues. This black and white thinking harms community cohesion, and I’m not sure it helps us become more sustainable. 

The use of extreme language also maligns the reputations of the many people who are — like nearly every elected leader in Canada right now — working to address the incredibly unfair and painful housing reality thousands of our fellow community members struggle with, through no fault of their own other than being part of less lucky demographics.

Some may note I’m hardly one to preach on the topic of restraint. I’ve made some missteps myself on this topic in the past, by using words too harshly, creating unnecessary distance between those of us who would otherwise share most of our values if we were to go on a hike together in our beloved coastal rainforest. 

Thanks to the wise counsel of some friends, I’m trying to learn one does effect social change differently in a small community. Perhaps the kinds of campaign tactics that work when fighting greedy corporations aren’t appropriate when arguing nuance with your neighbour who was just over for tea last month, or who might be called on to help fix your frozen pipes tomorrow. 

Those laser holes in the hull can suck out everyone’s life support system. 

Salt Spring has long been renowned for its smart and compassionate population. I would love to see a bit more restraint in our use of words and a bit more faith being placed in our fellow community members who dare to lead on complex issues, and not always assume subterfuge, worst case scenarios, and malintent. Can we disagree without taking it to such extremes? 

The world is an increasingly scary place, and we really do all need each other on this tiny ship. 

The writer is a Salt Spring Island resident.

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  1. Thank you for this breath of fresh air and a balanced viewpoint on the complex topic of how to house the wide spectrum of needs (and wants) in our communities. It’s not about development vs. protection / housing vs. the environment. These are harmful, black and white polarizations that continue to deepen divides and do not generate solutions or creativity. We all need the same things that support life… and we all need each other. Thank you for the wise caution not to blow a potential solution to a rhetorical extreme before it’s been tested in real life. PS Yes I’m one of those elected officials with the joy of serving the community of Gabriola, Mudge and Decourcy islands.


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